Six ways for employers to improve workplace mental health

Tom Oxley - Bamboo Mental Health

Getting mental health wrong is plain crazy

My recent report reviewed 46 employers, surveyed 15,000 employees and conducted 400 hours of in depth interviews for Time to Change. If you want a full copy - email me at In the meantime... the internet loves a list so here’s a short summary of six things to think about where you work.


1. Mental health is normal. So let’s talk about it.

One in four suffers from mental health problems. Stress, anxiety, depression, low mood, panics… It affects me, you and everyone we know. So we need to talk about it. Normalise it. To make it as common as a cold. Then maybe we can tackle the subject openly and face the fact that’s it’s the most common cause of absence, up there with physical injury.

2. Treat mental health like a physical injury

Ok so I have a bad cold. Don’t come in – stay away. You rest up. We’ll record it with HR, deal with your work and hand it back when you’re better. If only we could treat a panic attack or a stress episode like that. And I include HR in this: you need to provide a clear, well-communicated process for people to get help.

3. Set up a group to share experiences

Other people have this? Plenty. So why not set up a group for people who experience this stuff to talk about it. Or an internet forum or buddy system. Or get a few people trained as mental health ‘first aid’ champions.

4. Train managers to talk

Managers are managers because they are technically good but rarely get told how to talk about the other stuff. Please don’t turn managers into therapists (disaster) but DO remind them of their responsibilities to their team. Manager training was recommended in 45 out of 46 reviews we (myself and other independent consultants) did.

5. Employees have responsibility too

You have a shared responsibility to help yourself. So, if you’re burning the candle at three ends and self-medicating with substances because you’re stressed, then you’ll implode. Look after yourself. Learn mindfulness. Speak up if you’re ill.

6. View mental health as a business decision

Senior leaders, CEOs, MDs, it’s YOUR responsibility to get your business head around this, tackling the stigma and helping your teams be the best they can be. (And avoiding reputation damage and tribunals). Start by asking staff what’s hot and what’s not about working for you. Ask Kin & Co about engaging staff through their LIVE proposition. And make some changes: our research showed they’ll love you for it.

Tom Oxley is workplace mental health, corporate responsibility and comms specialist. He co-wrote Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces, and if you'd like a copy please email

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