‘Because Healthy Minds Matter’: lessons from Royal Mail Group’s mental health strategy

 

Pam Whelan

Director of Corporate

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Mental health is a big contributor to absence. The CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Well-being at Work report 2018 revealed that in over a fifth of organisations, mental ill health is the primary cause of long-term absence.

Having a strategy for promoting mental health is the first step to addressing issues like mental health related absence. With so many initiatives available to support employee mental health, a great place to start when designing a strategy is looking at real-life examples.

One of our clients, the Royal Mail Group, shared their story of designing and implementing a mental health strategy with us. In an organisation of 140,000, with a male dominated workforce typically resistant to talking about mental health, this was a complex challenge.

The team created an identifiable internal brand, ‘Because Healthy Minds Matter’, underpinned by four strategic pillars. The first step was to increase awareness of mental health in general and available support. Making sure the entire organisation is aware, is critical to engaging employees at all levels.

The second pillar was focused on decreasing stigma (despite growing acceptance of mental health, fuelled by public campaigns). In a business, it’s about helping people feel secure talking about their mental health, without fear of repercussions or judgement. If your strategy does this, you’ve won half the battle.

Effective signposting is the next crucial element. It’s essential that all employees, especially managers, know where to direct people to, so they can receive support. This could be an Employee Assistance Programme that offers access to counselling, or an external resource.

However, even with these factors, a mental health strategy won’t get off the ground without commitment from leadership. Leaders should be involved from the beginning and, must ‘walk the talk’ so mental health can become embedded as a value.

Finally, the results of any initiative must be analysed to demonstrate success and highlight areas for improvement. For Royal Mail Group, their wellbeing score increased by 2% - a significant number in a sizeable workforce. The business has trained 1,400 employees in mental health first aid and is training 5,000 more, and has created 130 mental health ambassadors.

These lessons can be adopted by any organisation looking to implement mental health strategy, reduce absence, and create a happier, more productive workforce that understands why mental health matters.


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