Mental Wellbeing at work guidance

Mental Wellbeing at work guidance

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) have recently updated their Mental Wellbeing at work guidance. This guideline covers how to create the right conditions for mental wellbeing at work. It aims to promote a supportive and inclusive work environment, including training and support for managers and helping people who have or are at risk of poor mental health.

NICE produce evidence-based guidance and advice for health, public health and social care practitioners to ensure the best care for people using the NHS and other public health and social care services, so this one is a little different to the others we’ve discussed in the past.

Why was this guideline created?

Poor mental wellbeing costs employers an estimated £33 billion to £42 billion each year when staff struggle to perform, take more sick days and are more likely to leave. In the UK, 15% of people at work are thought to have symptoms of an existing mental health problem. More needs to be done to create supportive workplaces where good mental wellbeing is valued.

The guideline was created to improve mental wellbeing at work by making sure:  

  • workplaces are fairer and more inclusive for all staff, with a clear commitment to promoting mental wellbeing
  • organisations create a culture that encourages open conversations about mental wellbeing
  • employers work with staff to tackle sources of stress at work
  • line managers get better training and support to improve staff wellbeing
  • staff who are affected by poor mental health get greater support and flexibility. 

Why is this guideline of interest to someone with PTSD?

This guideline is particularly important to ensure that employers are creating safe and supportive work environments for their employees (especially where any employees have, or at risk of mental health issues such as PTSD), and it’s also useful for employees to have a frame of reference as to what is considered ‘good practice’ for their employers to uphold.

We hear of many workplaces ‘not supporting’ or ‘dismissing’ mental health concerns, and from many employers wanting to know what more they can do – this guideline will help support both areas.

What does the guideline say?

You can read the full guideline here – but there are some significant points that are worthwhile noting. The guidelines recommend that workplaces:

  • Proactively promote mental wellbeing by ensuring that it is embedded in the overall business strategy of all organisational policies and practices. 
  • Ensure that systems are in place to provide support for employees for whom external factors are influencing their mental wellbeing.
  • Foster a positive, compassionate and inclusive workplace environment and culture to support psychological safety and mental wellbeing by:
    • ensuring active leadership and management support and engagement
    • increasing mental health literacy
    • encouraging and facilitating peer support (for example, using mental health champions and peer mentoring or ‘buddying’)
    • supporting people who manage and support employees
    • encouraging employees to recognise and take action to prevent discrimination in the workplace, for example by establishing and supporting staff networks
    • being aware that mental wellbeing in the workplace also depends on factors beyond the workplace itself (such as physical health, domestic relationships, home environment and financial circumstances) and also on societal discrimination (such as racism, homophobia and sexism)
    • promoting good communication and engagement with employees
    • including mental health awareness in manager training
  • Offer employees a private space and protected time to engage with interventions, taking into account the need for confidentiality. Ensure that all employees have the opportunity and the means to access interventions (such as private access to the internet and IT equipment for remotely delivered interventions).
  • Have a plan for responding to unexpected traumatic events affecting employees, such as the death of a colleague, a pandemic or a terrorist attack. This should include supporting people socially and with their mental wellbeing. 
  • Offer systematic support for managers. Include training, and regular refresher training, in:
    • line management
    • communication skills (the ability to listen, communicate clearly, understand and empathise).
  • Equip managers with the knowledge, tools, skills and resources to:
    • improve awareness of mental wellbeing at work
    • promote mental wellbeing and prevent poor mental wellbeing
    • improve employees’ understanding of and engagement in organisational decisions
    • improve communication between managers and employees.
  • Empower managers to make necessary adjustments to workload or work intensity for their employees, for example flexible or hybrid working.
  • Offer all employees (or help them to access) mindfulness, yoga or meditation on an ongoing basis. This can be delivered in a group or online, or using a combination of both.
  • Offer organisational support to employees identified as having or being at risk of poor mental health. This may include flexible working hours; changes to the job, workplace or culture to minimise any risks to mental wellbeing; or maintaining supportive line management relationships.
  • For employees who want further support, offer (or provide access to):
    • cognitive behavioural therapy sessions or
    • mindfulness training or
    • stress management training

What I do I do if my workplace isn’t supporting me?

This guideline is, unfortunately, just that – a guideline. It’s not a requirement or rules, but a best practice guide for how employers should conduct themselves in this area.

If you feel your employer isn’t supporting you in the way you’d like, you can direct them to the NICE guideline here, or to our Employers information page.

Discrimination at work from Mind explains what laws protect you from discrimination at work, what you can do if you are discriminated against, and where you can get support and advice.

To find out more about your other employment rights, you can:

  • Check with ACAS
  • Speak to your local citizens advice bureau
  • See a specialist legal adviser

How can I support my employees mental health better?

The fact you’re here is a great first step – thank you!.

As an employer, there are lots of practical things you can do to help support a colleague with PTSD. Firstly, you can read the new NICE guidelines, along with our Employers Information page.

Mind have produced a series of free resources to help improve mental wellbeing in your workplace which you can read online or download here.

MHFA offer a variety of mental health first aid courses which you can see here.

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It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.