How can you promote positive mental health in the workplace?

Zoe Bagnall
Content and PR Manager
10th June 2022

As part of our series of interviews with Business West Chamber members, we spoke with Rosie Runciman, co-founder of Sound Doctor which was established in 2012 with fellow BBC colleague Dominic Arkwright. After working on a programme called New Sound for several years, they wanted to give the same quality of health education for patients that they provided in their current affairs stories.

Rosie said:

“We began by using film and animation to help people look after themselves better at home. 

“We then founded Team Doctor with our colleague, Tim Thurston, who specialises in management and team building and getting the best out of your teams at work.

“It’s all about improving employee health and involves looking at all aspects of stress and anxiety with the aim of being preventative.”

The company delivers interactive courses all over the country and has recently been commissioned by NHS Cornwall to deliver wellbeing resources for patients. Overall, the company has seen a doubling in turnover in the last year.

Why are wellness programs important in the workplace?

14.7% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace and women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, a staggering 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health issues in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

An essential aspect of workplace mental health is the ability for employees to have open conversations both individually and as part of the company’s overall strategy. 

Rosie says:

“It's really important for colleagues to notice if things are becoming too much for somebody. The key person who needs to do this is the line manager. 

“But it can sometimes be the case that because managers may not have issues themselves, they haven’t accessed material before and therefore do not have sufficient understanding of the problems. If they can gain an understanding of how what they do or say can impact the team, then they can really benefit employees’ wellbeing.”

How effective are workplace wellness programs?

Research is increasingly showing that one of the most powerful ways to retain employees is to focus on their wellbeing. A study published in the journal Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance reported that “Well-being indicators – stress, emotional exhaustion (a dimension of job burnout), and other well-being experiences (e.g., safety in the workplace) had the strongest effect sizes related to turnover intention, more so than salary, work demands, and caseload.”

Rosie says that for well-being courses to be effective, the content needs to be engaging:

“If you just have a doctor, or an employee just sort of talking at you, people lose concentration very quickly. So, you have to make content in a way that is going to keep people watching and keep them engaged, and then reinforce the points that you want to bring out at the end.”

Recent research has also shown that organisations can increase employee discretionary effort by 21% by providing holistic well-being support. 

“Discretionary effort” refers to work that rises above the minimum required for a job while “holistic well-being” describes support for an employee that considers the whole person in numerous ways, including their mental health.”

With Mind finding that the pandemic has worsened around a third of people’s mental health, it is important that employers are taking this into account in the workplace.

Rosie says: 

“I think if you were in a room in a meeting, there would be almost nobody there who has not in their working life, had experienced stress and anxiety at work. And it's about how you deal with it, isn't it? Do you have the confidence? If you don't have the confidence? Where can you go? What can you do? And I think people need to know that there are options.”

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