How to support mental health at work

Feb 27, 2020 | Development

Poppy Jaman OBE, CEO, City Mental Health Alliance heads this year’s Student Development Conference. Here she shares research and advice on supporting student mental health in the workplace.

Making the transition from education into the workplace is an exciting time, but it can also be stressful and negatively impact on mental health. To understand this better, we surveyed over 500 UK graduates and students planning to apply for a job within financial, legal and professional services.

The majority (62%) of students and graduates said they were concerned about the impact an early careers job would have on their mental health, while 64% believed that disclosing a mental health issue would hurt their chances of securing a job. Meanwhile, 83% said they were more likely to apply to an employer that is open about its commitment to mental health, showing that today’s early careers applicants are judging employers on their mental health and wellbeing approach to supporting staff.

Employers that do early careers recruitment and induction processes well, plan for, and are vocal about, how their organisation will support the mental health of early careers applicants and recruits. Here are some ideas for achieving this:

  1. Employers can help to challenge the all-consuming pressure to be perfect that is facing young people today. We know this pressure can exacerbate mental health issues. Businesses should describe the culture of their workplaces clearly and honestly. Also, adopting a more authentic recruitment approach requires employers to be much more thoughtful about the roles they are recruiting for. They need to ask themselves; does the role really require high grades or a 2:1 result? Or, are strengths such as problem solving, being a team player, creativity, agility and an appetite for learning more important? Are emotions such as empathy, compassion and kindness required to create healthy high performing teams?
  2. Many first jobs can involve regular travelling, being away from family and friends, studying for qualifications on top of the deadlines and demands of the day-to-day role or often working long hours. Employers that recognise these challenges and discuss them with new recruits, as well as share what support is available to counter some of these stressors, would give a clear message that they are being thoughtful about the way they support their staff.
  3. Our survey revealed that 76% of young job seekers didn’t have any information about mental health or wellbeing support from prospective employers. Businesses could gain credibility by anticipating hidden disabilities and health issues, as well as clearly communicating what mental health support is available and how to access it, from the start of the recruitment process.
  4. We know from research conducted by BiTC that most managers feel the wellbeing of their team is their responsibility and yet most have never had any training. So, ensuring managers are equipped with the skills to recognise stress and initiate early conversations, and direct people to the right support, such as EAP, is a crucial part of creating healthy working environments.
  5. Finally, read through the CMHA’s Thriving At Work guide, which is a guide for good practice for mental health in the workplace, for early careers and beyond.

This is an excerpt from The Student Employer, autumn 2019


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