How to develop an effective mental health and wellbeing strategy for the workplace

The importance of good mental health in the workplace has been gaining recognition across the UK for some time now. All too often though, well-meaning employers adopt mental health and wellness resources that aren’t always the best fit for their organisation. These resources can accrue organically and so, without the necessary planning or strategising, they might not be as effective as intended.

Our guide will help you to develop an effective health and wellbeing strategy and ensure that you spend your available budget effectively.

Here are the steps:

  1. Assess your situation
  2. Get management onboard
  3. Create your strategy
  4. Recruit your champions
  5. Source specialist partners
  6. Roll out and communicate
  7. Monitor engagement and results


Assess your situation

Whether you work in an HR capacity or in some other senior management or leadership role, producing a strategy requires research. The results will help to determine the benefit, scope and desired outcomes of any resultant strategy. Key questions to ask might include:

  1. Absenteeism – how much time are you losing to absenteeism due to mental ill health?


  1. Presenteeism – can you identify areas where productivity and efficiency might improve with a more positive mindset?


  1. Recruitment – will a mental health and wellbeing programme help to attract quality candidates?


  1. Retention – will staff be more likely to stay if there is a programme in place?


  1. Risk – is there any potential for an employment tribunal due to poor mental health support?


Much of this information can be gleaned by asking employees either through direct one-to-ones with their line managers, or through internal surveys or questionnaires.

Get management onboard

Before progressing too far, it’s important to establish whether there is enthusiasm and budget to implement a strategy at senior management or board level.

If it can be seen that a strategy for mental health support will help to improve the results of the initial assessment, then it will be easier to get senior backing. However, employers should be aware that in any case that they have a legal duty of care towards their employees to support good mental health and wellbeing. It’s the same rule as for all other health and safety measures.

Beyond the legalities, good leaders will also appreciate the moral obligation they have to look after people’s wellbeing as well as the reputational boost that can result.

Create your strategy

With senior management onboard, the strategy can be properly developed and fleshed out. Before committing to any action it’s a good idea to consult with the employees to see where and how they would like their health and wellbeing needs cared for. The consultation should also include management staff. They are often overlooked but the nature of their work makes them more susceptible to stress and burnout challenges, and so they are potentially more vulnerable.

The available budget will be a determining factor in any planning. As guide, the charity Mind estimates that a risk-assessment questionnaire, seminars, workshops, and web-based materials will cost approximately £80 per employee per year. This doesn’t take into account the staff time required for attendance, but it’s a useful guide.

Armed with desired outcomes, a budget, and feedback from the workforce it’s now possible to develop a strategy. The focus should be on prevention rather than intervention, and being proactive rather than reactive.

Some of the strategy can be executed entirely in-house and aimed at normalising conversations around mental health. Initiatives could include:

  • Employee mental health and wellbeing questionnaires
  • Better-informed line management
  • Revised appraisals that include mental health discussion
  • Dedicated internal comms and staff newsletters
  • Organising group wellness sessions
  • Posters on staff noticeboards

It’s important to get the level and quality of information right, and this brings us on to specialist training that requires external support.

  • Training for mental health first aiders
  • Mental health education platforms for staff and managers
  • Specialist training workshops for line managers
  • On-site medical support sessions
  • EAP’s


Recruit your champions

The consultation process should have identified those members of staff who are particularly interested in mental health and wellbeing. It makes sense to embrace their enthusiasm by enlisting their help to implement the strategy. This might simply be promoting discussion and raising awareness with their colleagues, but these ‘champions’ could also be the people to volunteer for mental health first aid training.

The champions could also be the people to organise group wellness sessions that help to monitor employee take up and feedback. From this, they can report back and help to influence future incremental changes that positively impact workplace culture.

Source specialist partners

Having produced a strategy it’s now time to identify the external partners who can provide the necessary specialist education and support. From a management perspective it’s easier to deal with fewer partners but, depending on the strategy, there might be a need for both proactive and reactive services.

Budget will come into it but broadly speaking the proactive support will cost less to implement but cover far more employees. An online mental health education platform for staff and managers will reach everyone, and mental health first aid instructors can ensure that every department is supported if needs be.

The reactive services, like counselling and therapy sessions will be more expensive but also more targeted for an individual’s needs.

Ideally the strategy would include both types of support but the ease of implementation, the time to manage them, should be taken into account too.


Rollout and communicate

With a firm plan and all of the necessary resources in place, the mental health  strategy can be rolled out across the organisation. The priority now is to communicate widely and regularly so that the initiative takes hold. A sensible communication plan would include:

  • Why good mental health in the workplace is important
  • Signposting towards learning resources
  • Recognising symptoms of poor mental health and supporting others
  • Focus on specialist topics
  • Ways to access further support

A good way to ensure that the initiative remains in the collective awareness is to adopt a calendar of monthly specialist topics to roll out over the course of the year. Emails can be sent each month to highlight a different aspect of mental health so that there’s always something fresh and new to get attention.


Monitor engagement and results

The tone of all resources and communication should strive for empowerment rather than being hectoring or patronising. Employees will appreciate the support on offer, but only if they can participate and develop at their own pace and in a way that works for them.

The same methods used to research and develop the strategy can be used to monitor engagement and results. Some online platforms will also produce analytics that shows the level of interest and take up.

A pattern should soon emerge that reveals the areas of particular interest. Over time these can then be addressed and targeted with additional resources.

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Nadun Baduge
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