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HR leader, Annette Andrews shares her top 5 tips for creating a positive culture around mental health

opinions | 5 min read

BioBeats spoke to Annette Andrews about creating positive culture change around mental health, shifts in attitude since the pandemic and her top 5 tips on how you can bring about change in your organisation.

Annette is an experienced Chief People Officer, having worked with organisations such as Lloyd’s and Ford, on a global basis for 30+ years. She is due to be installed in the UK as the Master of the Guild of Human Resource Professionals in 2020 and is the founder of Acaria Coaching and Consulting.

The pandemic is forcing us all to rethink our approach to mental wellbeing.

We all have mental health, just like we have physical health. We are all very willing to talk openly about the efforts we take to maintain our physical health; going to the gym, considering what we eat, the steps we do each day.

However, both individually and collectively as organisations, we need to get the point where we are willing to share how we are feeling from a mental health perspective too; including what we are doing to look after our wellbeing and what data we are using to support this.

There is no one quick fix for employers, but rather a combination of initiatives that will vary according to the organisation and culture.

Here’s my top recommendations, based off 20 years of experience in the Human Resources and People Management industry, for strategies that you should be investing time and resources into to prioritise mental health and create positive culture change:

1. Provide mental wellbeing services

This may seem like an obvious one to get started with, but the importance I cannot stress enough. There are some amazing initiatives going on, many applicable virtually too. The provision of wellbeing apps, virtual yoga and meditation sessions, mindfulness integrated into development activities, or even just walking and talking meetings all contribute to mental health awareness and positive behaviour change.

2. Get to know your data

People and businesses love data. Knowing the current state of wellbeing across your organisation is vital to implementing the right initiatives. Building a relationship with a wellbeing provider can enable you to collate this data, as they can provide an audit on the current wellbeing of your teams and then adapt initiatives on both a personal and organisational level.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

No one ever complains about too much information. Communication should always be a top priority, with information about mental health services or company initiatives provided in different ways, across various channels. There is a tendency to over-rely on the formal written routes, but the informal, casual follow-ups are just as important. Pick up the phone or have a virtual coffee and check-in with your people.

4. Encourage role models

Top-down leadership is incredibly important. Leaders that talk about their own experiences help to encourage communication and reduce stigma. There are some incredibly brave CEOs that have stepped up to talk about their own experiences and the changes they have made as a result. This helps create culture shifts and normalise discussing mental health.

5. Mental health training & support groups

Mental health training can be made available for all employees and should be mandatory for anyone managing or leading others. Mental health first aiders, or trained wellbeing leads, are a fantastic way to encourage informal discussion at all levels and provide a safe place for individuals to go to. Create buddies and support groups to encourage discussion and connections.

Moving from awareness to action

COVID-19 has been the catalyst for enormous cultural shifts already. Moving forward, employees will begin choosing who they work for based on the wellbeing support provided, not just the financials offered.

At present only 26% of organisations have a specific wellbeing strategy and yet the estimated ROI is 5:1. If there ever was an opportunity to build support for employee mental health into your wider People and Culture strategy, it’s now.

If you want to hear more from Annette, you can access our on demand webinar session: How to support employee mental health in the new era of work, where we discussed further strategies for creating positive culture change amid COVID-19.

Watch the on demand recording