Mental health: a new priority

Unmind's Dr Sofia Gerbase and Dr Kate Daley on the workplace mental health measures employees want

Mental health: a new priority

This article was produced in partnership with Unmind.

In these uncertain times, one thing’s for sure: the pandemic has re-shaped our lives forever. In the work sphere, it has forced employers to look at the employee experience with a new understanding of what people want and need. And it’s no longer just about the job, says a new publication - The Employee Experience, Mental Health and the Post COVID-19 Workplace - from corporate wellbeing specialists Unmind.

Driven by employee demand, organisations increasingly have mental wellbeing front of mind. Seventy-seven percent of employers feel it’s now the top priority for their company, according to an Arizona State University report.

“It’s common for significant life events (like living through a pandemic) to offer an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and values. This may have led many to place greater value on life outside work and so emphasised the importance of work-life balance and wellbeing,” says Dr Sofia Gerbase, clinical psychologist at Unmind.

“Employees may therefore gravitate towards empathic, caring employers who offer flexibility and work environments that enable a good work-life balance, and who encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work.”

Awareness and attitudes around mental health were already changing; the pandemic has “simply turned up the volume on these conversations”, says Dr Kate Daley, psychology lead at Unmind.

“There has been a generation shift where more people are willing to talk about their struggles, and social media has given them the platform to do it. Before the pandemic people were talking about the need for topics like depression and suicide to be spoken about more openly in the workplace, and for more work-life balance. Many employees were already saying their company should do more to support mental health.”

With reports of higher burnout, a spotlight has been shone on the workplace, which has likely sped up some of this attitude shift.

So what do employees want ‘prioritising mental wellbeing’ to look like?

First, they want to see greater awareness – a prerequisite for tackling the issue. “Employees want companies to acknowledge mental health - to have a mental health strategy, to promote it, address it, talk about it!” says Dr Daley.

Second, they want action. “Whether that is at an organisation level by reducing psychosocial risk factors, at an interpersonal level by upskilling line managers, or at an individual level by providing people with the tools, resources and signposting to mental health support.”

A dual spectrum model

Mental wellbeing may seem like a vast and complex terrain to navigate, but the Unmind report provides valuable pointers to help employers get their bearings. For example – don’t go looking for a ‘one size fits all’ approach; it doesn’t exist.  A broad range of solutions need to be made available throughout the employee journey.

The report advocates a ‘dual spectrum’ model that allows organisations to broaden their thinking to support all employees and drive positive cultural change at scale.

As we begin to understand how multi-faceted the employee experience is, and as it's become easier to talk about mental illness, we’re seeing it’s no longer about an employee being at one end of the spectrum or another - either having mental health problems or not. It's a realisation that it’s about supporting people to flourish.

“The model draws attention to the idea you can have a mental health problem and still be flourishing; and that you can have no diagnosis but still be languishing,” says Dr Daley. “It also emphasises that you can move up and down these areas, and that this can be impacted by factors in and outside of work.”

This thinking can guide the choice of interventions the employer might offer and will impact on the employee experience.

“It is likely this will be a closer match to their expectations and may set the organisation apart from its competitors. This approach enables employers to empower their employees to thrive and flourish.”

To read the full report visit: The employee experience, mental health, and the post-Covid-19 workplace and to learn more go to www.unmind.com

DR SOFIA GERBASE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

Dr Sofia Gerbase is a clinical psychologist with 10 years’ clinical and research experience in mental health.  She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is passionate about prevention and working with organisations to foster psychologically healthy work environments. Before joining Unmind, Dr Gerbase worked in the UK National Health Service delivering psychological therapies and supporting staff teams in care homes.

DR KATE DALEY, PSYCHOLOGY LEAD

Dr Kate Daley has 14+ years’ experience in developed and emerging health systems and is skilled in using psychology for engagement, leadership and behavioural change. Dr Daley holds a doctorate in research methods and a Masters in Occupational Psychology. Passionate about transforming mental health care in the workplace, she brings a wealth of experience across public and private sector work to her role at Unmind.

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