Essex launches toolkit to improve mental health in the workplace

  • Date

    Wed 19 Jun 19

Photo of Dr Maria Hudson

A toolkit designed to improve policy and practice in the management of mental health in the workplace is being launched by Essex Business School.

A toolkit designed to improve policy and practice in the management of mental health in the workplace is being launched by Essex Business School.

According to NHS England, mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, and workplaces are key contributors to our mental health.

The toolkit advocates institutional change and more progressive tactics in the inclusion and recognition of people with varying mental health needs in the workplace.

The information within the kit is based on case studies and insights from employers from the public, private and social enterprise sectors in Essex and the surrounding areas.

Brentwood Community Print, a community interest company working with people recovering from mental illness, was a key partner in the process, feeding their first-hand experience into the kit’s discussion exercises.

The kit urges employers to note the benefits of having someone with lived mental health experience on the team, and the importance of creating an environment where an employee can disclose their mental health condition right at the start of their employment.

It goes on to illustrate how good leadership and governance is required to allow that person to put their experience to good use – both in the education of the team around them and in dealing with external clients facing similar issues.

It also drills down to look at the stigma surrounding mental health, the role of stress and pressure, practical initiatives that can be taken to foster a more positive view of mental health in the workplace, and what someone returning to work after a period of mental illness may need.

Dr Maria Hudson, from Essex Business School, developed the kit. She used ‘action-learning’ approaches to bring small groups together to discuss and address organisational challenges that were often complex, by meeting regularly and working collectively.

Dr Hudson said: “This toolkit was borne out of a need to share and communicate to employers all we had learned through the action-learning set.

“During the action-learning phase we met with five organisations on a regular basis, across a one year period.

“Through that we learned about how empowering it can be for employers from different organisations and sectors to come together to share and discuss their policy, practice and challenges in the management of mental health at work.

“While it was invaluable to talk, it was also important to use the conversations as a platform for making real changes in the workplace.

“My hope is that the discussion based approach used in our kit will encourage employers to bring colleagues together to explore the management of mental health at work -  both what is working well and what is not.

“I hope that employers can draw on the resources to make the next step to thinking about how policy and practice might be improved, and then implement changes that may help secure the improvements, meaning this project will have a progressive impact on working lives”

In 2016 Dr Hudson undertook a research project for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on the Management of Mental Health at Work. Using employer case studies she developed examples of better practice and mapped challenges in the management of mental health at work. Her report was published in 2016.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account, Dr Hudson then went on to establish the action-learning set in 2017.

View the full toolkit