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4 Practical steps to foster a culture of openness around mental health

When we spoke to over 2,000 employees throughout the UK, it became readily apparent that stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace remains...

Our 2021 National Health and Wellbeing at work report found that 7 in 10 employees say that discussing their health issues in the workplace would worry them to some degree.

In fact, the most common concern was other team members thinking they couldn’t do their job. Some employees even worried they'd lose their job or be put on a performance review.

If a culture of openness and support regarding employee health is not truly fostered by a business, employees are less likely to access the resources on offer and really take advantage of them.

Find out how our business health and wellbeing services could support both your business and employees.

Here are four steps to get you started:

1. Create a mental health policy

In our latest research, a third of employees say that their workplace doesn’t offer a wellbeing programme. If you don’t have a formal policy, this is an obvious and crucial first step.

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By creating a mental health policy you send a strong signal to staff that mental health in the workplace matters and that you will take it seriously. Your policy should make it crystal clear that opening up about mental health matters will result in help and support rather than discrimination.

Your policy should explain that mental health will be treated in the same manner and with as much respect as physical health. Back this up with specific policies, such as flexible working conditions and paid leave. By creating, circulating and promoting your mental health policy, you will help to erode the stigma of shame and silence surrounding mental health. Ensure that all staff, but especially managers, are aware of the policy by holding sessions to take them through the detail and what their responsibilities as line managers are.

2. Provide access to a 24/7 confidential helpline

Our National Health and Wellbeing at Work report revealed that Mental Health support services were the most frequently used through their work healthcare plan. This type of service is simple to implement through an Employee Assistance Programme and provides your workforce with a practical tool to help proactively manage their mental health.

Find out how our business health and wellbeing services could support both your business and employees here.

3. Ensure a good work/life balance

The pandemic has resulted in burnout across businesses, and employees need time to re-charge now more than ever. Businesses need to make it clear that work-life balance is important. You could start to do this by:

  • Setting reasonable communication expectations (e.g. make it clear employees are not obliged to reply to emails outside of office hours)

  • Offering flexible working arrangements

  • Encouraging employees to take lunch breaks and use their allocated holiday time etc.

This behaviour must be modelled from top down. If your managers are taking company calls while on a holiday or only ever eat lunch at their desk it sets expectations and employees will feel obliged to do the same.

Read Why employee work/life balance matters for more information on improving work/life balance in your company.

4. Introduce mental health training

Our research shows that Mental Health is most common issue that employees haven't disclosed to their manager. 

Understandably the focus of mental health within the workplace may be a new concept for many managers and without training they may feel their efforts are inadequate or even unhelpful. You can empower them to help their team by providing them with useful training which could include:

  • The different models of mental health– medical/biological or psychological and social

  • How mental illnesses are diagnosed

  • The causes, signs and symptoms and treatment and support options that relate to stress, anxiety and depression

  • How to use basic listening skills to build rapport, promote trust and encourage openness

  • What organisations are expected to do for employees who are stressed, anxious or depressed

  • Appropriate language and topics for 1:1 meetings with staff who are struggling

  • Skills to help someone manage their anxiety and low mood

  • How to help support someone experiencing a mental health condition


These four steps are just a few ideas you can use to help nudge your businesses towards creating a more compassionate and open culture. To learn more about mental and physical health within the workplace and find out how else you can support your employees’ wellbeing download our free report.


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Benenden Healthcare for Business provides an affordable, high quality, private healthcare solution to support all your employees. With easy setup and no exclusions on pre-existing medical conditions, we want to help make healthcare a standard of employment for everyone, rather than just a perk for the few. See how we can help you develop a healthcare solution that works for your whole business.