Workplace wellness – how businesses can prioritise employee mental health

It won’t surprise you that mental health and well-being continue to reside at the top…

Workplace wellness – how businesses can prioritise employee mental health

It won’t surprise you that mental health and well-being continue to reside at the top of our workplace communication issues list.

In a recent column, I focused on how you can actively take more control of three main areas of well-being: mind, body and soul. Today, let’s examine how businesses can offer support.

The World Economic Forum recently hosted a live webinar focusing on cultivating mentally healthy workplaces. The speakers discussed a variety of regional and cross-sector case studies and initiatives aimed at providing Covid-19 stress-related assistance for mental health.

I’d like to explore some of their suggestions and at the same time introduce you to the Irish company Primeline. Based in County Meath, Primeline employees more than 700 people from all 32 countries across the island. It’s the largest independent local provider of logistics, sales and marketing services to brands across Ireland and the UK.

I spoke with Nikki Mullin and Kelly-Ann Regan, Primeline’s HR director and head of insurance and risk respectively. We met through Zoom, of course. Do I really even need to specify that anymore?

The two women were eager to share the impact of their company-wide “Primelife” programme. They have been expanding the scheme since it was first launched face-to-face and has since become a blended offering that serves their mixed teams of in-person warehouse workers and drivers as well as their working-from-home administration staff.

The programme largely follows steps set out for any business as suggested by the World Economic Forum.

1) Be aware of the workplace environment

Large or small, public or private, every workplace is unique. To best understand what your organisation needs, you must analyse your surroundings, your colleagues and even your competitors to decide what is right for you.

And it goes beyond the organisation. “We don’t just want to ensure the work environment is at the optimum level,” said Nikki. “We want to also ensure each individual employee is able to manage their own problems.”

2) Learn what motivates your company’s leaders

Although it’s rather obvious that for any programme to be successful, it needs the backing of the senior leadership team, but the World Economic Forum points out that there is no single motivator for why a business should provide this. To appeal to your leaders, it’s important to combine a few things such as protecting the mental health of employees; doing the ‘right thing’ for employees; benefits for employee engagement and managing costs and liabilities.

“While our programme is definitely reinforced by our founders,” Nikki explained. “It wasn’t an easy journey. Sometimes the concept of culture and culture change and values-based culture – can sound fluffy and people might initially say, ‘why are you sticking up words on the wall and what’s going to happen with that?’ One way I engage the founders and my fellow colleagues on the senior leader team was talking about the customer-employee profit chain which is, in a nutshell, if you find really great people and you look after them, they will look after you and there will be growth.”

3) Create strategic partnerships

Co-operation and partnerships with outside organisations is highly recommended by the World Economic Forum. Primeline partnered with Laya Healthcare’s Employee Assistance Programme, a 24/7 mental well-being support service which covers confidential counselling as well as advice on financial or legal matters, life coaching and career counselling.

“We have about 350 people who work in our warehouses,” said Kelly-Ann. “Many of them are foreign nationals who might not have a lot of English. We try to give them a one-stop shop where they can come to get help and advice.”

4) Track and celebrate progress

Primeline launched their Laya partnership over a year ago, long before the added stress of Covid. Over the first six months, Kelly-Ann and Nikki reported only 10 calls were made by team members to the Employee Assistance Programme. “Now, it receives 10 calls a day,” said Kelly-Ann.

The increase in awareness, use and any correlated positive impact should be shared to continue to build on success, urges the Forum.

5) Make programmes holistic and directly connected

Although the Laya partnership provided many services, Nikki and Kelly-Ann realised that to truly make their people feel looked after in the workplace, they needed to create something deeper and wider with Primelife.

“It’s important to feel included and valued in the workplace. We already had the Employee Assistance Programme. Primelife sits across that and especially during Covid, we need to help our employees deal with their burdens. We don’t want them to struggle through their jobs,” said Kelly-Ann. “We send out weekly communications to our colleagues to support mental health.”

6) Get started

Dr Brock Chisholm, the first director general of the World Health Organisation famously said: “Without mental health, there can be no true physical health.”

Similarly, businesses are seeing first hand that wellness programmes are the key to employee morale and productivity. As Nikki summed up: “We now have digital versions of almost everything we provided in the past in person. People want to be part of something. It’s no longer just a job.”

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