How to develop a mental health and wellbeing strategy.
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How this helps your business
Developing a mental health and wellbeing strategy allows workplaces to have a clear vision. It provides the overarching framework that guides policy direction and structure for initiatives to build thriving and supportive workplace environments.
A mental health and wellbeing strategy helps organisations to proactively invest, monitor and improve mental health and wellbeing. The strategy should sit alongside your existing organisational objectives, targets and actions.
Melbourne University, 2014, Workplace prevention of mental health problems
Key stats and facts
1 in 5
people are currently experiencing a mental health condition.
Superfriend, 2018, Indicators of a Thriving Workplace
of employees believe their productivity would increase within a mentally healthy workplace.
Superfriend, 2018, Indicators of a Thriving Workplace
Define the strategy purpose
A mental health and wellbeing strategy provides the framework for preventing and managing a variety of physical and mental health issues, providing employees the opportunity to thrive in their job.
Best practice mental health and wellbeing strategies adopt an integrated approach including preventing harm to mental health, promoting good mental health, early intervention and supporting recovery.
Organisations differ in size, staff needs, organisational goals, and possible risks. A tailored mental health and wellbeing strategy that addresses your specific workplace needs is essential. One size will not fit all.
To clearly identify your workplace needs, engage employees and leaders from across your organisation in the process.
Consider if there is anyone in your organisation who is currently taking action, or has experience in the mental health space that can assist.
If you have completed a business case for mental health and wellbeing, can you use this as a starting point for developing your strategies?
Do you already have a mental health policy or other relevant policies that can form part of the strategy?
Think about where the strategy will fit into your overall health and safety, human resources, and organisational processes.
For further information on building a mental health and wellbeing strategy, Beyond Blue has a helpful resource which is available below.
A mental health steering committee is one way to make sure the mental health and wellbeing strategy is driven and led by the senior leaders in your organisation. This will help embed the initiatives into every day practice. The committee can include individuals in senior management positions and from strategic areas of the organisation such as human resources, workplace health and safety, communications, and leaders responsible for operational areas. If you've already developed a business case, you may want to engage the same team or think about any additional expertise you may need.
Things to consider:
What is your governance process for sign off and approval of budget considerations?
What is happening in the internal and external environment that might impact your strategy?
Does your workplace have the skills and ability internally to complete the work? If not, how will you resource the development of the strategy and ensure initiatives are reviewed, monitored and improved regularly?
How will you communicate the strategy to your organisation? Engaging communications and marketing colleagues in the early stages is important. Consider developing a communications and marketing plan.
Identify your organisational needs
If you have completed a business case for addressing workplace mental health, you have already identified some specific organisational needs in mental health and wellbeing, based on your workplace insights. This will help decide the appropriate actions or programs to ensure you have successful outcomes.
Visit page 18 to 21 of the below resource from Beyond Blue for guidance on what to include in a situational analysis. Use key insights and your business case to identify what your organisation is currently doing well and what it can improve.
Write your strategy
Now that you have completed your preparation, it's time to start pulling everything together into a complete mental health and wellbeing strategy. This process may take some time, but to help you get started, there is a template below that you can build on. Make sure you engage with your employees at every step during the development of your strategy. Consider whether you have the skills within your organisation to develop this strategy, or whether you need support from external experts.
Make a change
Move your mental health strategy off the page and into the workplace. To keep your mental health and wellbeing strategy moving forward, think about some of the actions and resources required to make this happen. Identify and start implementing 2 or 3 key actions you can take. Consider the following for some ideas:
Gain approval from your organisation's board, CEO or the highest level decision makers.
Ensure messages are clearly communicated within your workplace. This can be done through an Internal Communication Plan which can improve the understanding of the strategy and its actions. Talk to your internal communications team for support.
Embed the strategy into your organisational culture. Think about how previous changes have occurred in your workplace. What worked well, and what helped adoption of change in your workplace?
Assign all activities in your strategy to a work unit or team, set an end date, and make it a requirement to share plans and progress updates with your mental health committee.
Make sure mental health and wellbeing is included on meeting agendas and discussed in team meetings regularly.
Incorporate mental health into existing work health and safety strategies.
Review and keep improving
Organisations have a wealth of existing data that can be used to create mental health and wellbeing baselines for setting objectives and targets. Exploring access to data within your organisation can assist in establishing performance indicators that can be measured. Exploring a baseline and performance indicators will allow your organisation to monitor and evaluate the ongoing performance of your mental health and wellbeing strategy.
Performance indicators may be made up of lead indicators (predicting future mental health and wellbeing) or lag indicators (a record of past mental health and wellbeing). In your evaluation plan, consider including both lead and lag indicators.
Lead indicators may include:
percentage of audits completed
percentage remedial or corrective actions completed
staff participation in wellbeing programs
senior management participation in mental health and wellbeing training
number of mental health and wellbeing communication initiatives
Lag indicators may include:
number of critical events (incidents)
The resource below from the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) has more information on lead and lag indicators. See the description on page 10 and the examples on page 11 in Table 1 to help you establish your baselines and set occupational health and safety performance indicators.
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