5 Tips for Creating a Positive Mental Health Culture at Work

Building a positive mental health culture in the workplace is one of the most important (and impactful) steps a company can take – not only for its people, but for the future success of that business. 

As well as being the right thing to do , focusing on employee wellbeing and mental health at work holds a great deal of value from a profit, brand, and future-proofing perspective. People care about their wellbeing now, more than ever – and nothing nurtures employee wellbeing quite like an open, inclusive, and supportive workplace mental health culture.  

As well as being more engaged, more productive, and more likely to stay with the company  (over and above competitors), happy employees are the best brand ambassadors a business can ever have. When they feel comfortable showing up to work and being their complete, authentic selves – able to express how they’re feeling without fear of being judged or treated differently – people are capable of anything.

Take a look at our top 5 tips for creating a positive workplace mental health culture, where employees feel able to talk openly about stress and their mental health.  


1. Introduce support-focused performance management

The very concept of ‘performance management’ can strike fear into the heart of any anxious worker, but what if you used the process to actually improve employee wellbeing? Start off with regular, unstructured check-ins between team members and team leaders – where discussions centre on work, wellbeing, and any barriers to wellbeing at work. Use these check-ins to explore what support team leaders can provide; then, in your quarterly, bi-annual or yearly talent reviews, focus on creating a personalised plan that supports the growth, ambition, and overall wellbeing of your people.


2. Foster human-centric conversations

As well as incorporating wellbeing into your performance initiatives, a great way to nurture trust in your teams is through on-the-job coaching. This should be completely separate from team leader check-ins, with a coach who isn’t connected to the team in question. These sessions should allow for open and honest conversations about wellbeing, mental health challenges, workplace pressures, home life, goals, and anything else your employees want to talk about. These sessions can also feed into your talent reviews. 


3. Support team leaders in influencing the culture

A lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of your team leaders), so it’s important to support them at every turn. If your team leaders are positive and proactive about workplace wellbeing, this will help to inspire positivity in the rest of your teams. One of the main roles of a team leader, in this context, is to start the mental health conversation – but that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. Your leaders will need training and education to equip them with the skills and understanding needed to have open and inclusive conversations around mental health and wellbeing. Just remember, they’re not therapists – and you shouldn’t expect them to be. Their role is simply to listen, signpost, and support. 


4. Use education to shape the employee experience

It’s not only those in a position of leadership who benefit from education around mental health: education is inextricably linked with culture, and if you want to shape company culture, you need company-wide education. E-learning (or in-person) sessions to help people spot signs of struggle in others, understand how to start a conversation, and know how to signpost to support are essential for achieving change. You could also think about asking your employees what skills they’d like to learn, and where they feel they need the most support; that way, you can shape the educational experience to meet the needs of a diverse set of colleagues. 


5. Draw on lived experience to break down stigma

An area that we always come back to for making real progress towards better workplace mental health is the sharing of lived experience. This is also a step that large or small organisations can take, regardless of budget. Starting with your senior leaders will help to set a precedent of transparency – whilst also giving permission for others to share their struggles openly, without fear of judgement. You might choose to start a podcast, hold a webinar, send out a video, or record stories in writing; whatever medium you choose, share these stories far and wide – and seek internal feedback after every story. 


Join Our Community

Organisations all over the world, of every size and industry, have a significant part to play in shaping the narrative around workplace mental health. 

The Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace Mental Health was created to enable shared learning between business leaders around the globe. Together, our community is making a significant difference to the future of mental health at work by sharing insight, exploring challenges, and establishing best practice for all.

To benefit from (and contribute to) our workplace mental health mission, sign the Leadership Pledge today. You’ll receive lots of information to get you started, and have the opportunity to network with some fantastic companies that are already leading the way.