Reflections on 2022 and looking ahead to 2023, from our Commitment Signees

Beckett Frith
Beckett Frith

Senior Content Officer, Mental Health at Work

As we reach the end of the year, many of us take the time to reflect on what went well this year, what could have gone better, and what we want to do to improve for next year.

Here at Mental Health at Work, we’ve had a year of ups and downs. We’re delighted to have had our 2000th organisation sign up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment (find out more about that here), and we’re pleased to see so many UK employers keen to explore ways of improving mental health in their workplaces.

But we’re also had tough times. Many organisations are facing financial difficulties as they tackle inflation, rising energy costs, and the impact of strikes – and often it’s smaller organisations facing the toughest challenges. We know financial worries can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing.

A painter paints the outside of a house

That’s why we’ve decided that we’re going to be increasing our focus on smaller organisations​A report into the wellbeing of small business owners PDF The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a huge strain on everyone's wellbeing. This report from Simply Business explores the impact the pandemic has had on smaller businesses.Free By: Simply Business View resource in 2023. We’re still going to be here for employers of any size, but we want to do more for those who are most in need of some extra support. For the third year running, Mental Health at Work is proud to have been a charity partner of the SME National Business Awards, championing small and medium sized organisations across the country. Their kind donation to the Mental Health at Work programme will enable us to further support SME’s, providing tools and tips to help them make a positive change where they work, and sharing real-life stories to connect and inspire.

We wanted to find out what 2022 has meant to these organisations who employ less than 50 people, so we reached out to these smaller employers who have already signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment​The Mental Health at Work Commitment introduction guide PDF This PDF guide, created by the Mental Health at Work team, explains more about what the Commitment is, how to sign up, and what to do next.Free By: Mental Health at Work (website) View resource. We asked what they have learned this year, and what they will be taking forward into the New Year.

Those who hide it well can suffer the most - Kate, Hue Imbued Consultancy Limited

Lots of organisations told us that helping people to talk about their mental wellbeing​Time To Talk Day 2022 resources Web page February 3rd 2022 is Time to Talk day. On this page, you can download a variety of materials to help start mental health conversations in your workplace.Free By: Mind View resource was their key to better employee wellbeing. Steven from EC Safety Solutions said that while stigma surrounding mental health had improved somewhat, it still seemed to be a factor in whether someone decided to talk about their feelings or not. And Lee from Export Case Co Ltd explained that helping people talk had been key to improving their employee’s wellbeing this year.

It is important that staff know that their mental wellbeing is taken seriously by the company that employs them - Rachel, JCSys Ltd

In order to help staff feel comfortable seeking help, they need to know their organisation will be on their side. We saw many organisations who focused on creating a supportive atmosphere so staff felt safe and comfortable when reaching out. Leanne told us that Tenders UK had worked hard on creating an open dialogue with all staff about mental health issues and their options for support, and that has made a huge difference to people feeling able to come forward with issues and us being able to support far earlier. “This has led to a much healthier culture and conversation around mental health at work,” she said.

Colleagues share a smile

But Ashlea from Darwen Electrical Services Ltd pointed out that it’s important not to take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. “Not everyone will show the same signs​How to spot the signs of a potential mental health issue PDF This one-page PDF from Nuffield Health suggests some warning signs to look out for that could indicate someone is experiencing poor mental or emotional wellbeing.Free By: Nuffield Health View resource during times of struggle,” she said. At Synergy Learning, Tory explains that they tackle this by having regular check-ins with team members – even those who appear to be doing fine. That way, nobody gets left behind.

Use the resources and let staff know where to access help and what is available to them. Listen to everyone. Keep on developing and improving what is on offer - Catherine, Medilink Midlands

Lots of organisations had big plans for mental health in their workplaces in the coming year, but you might find getting started on your journey can be a challenge. James at Cumbira CVS said that signing the Commitment had been a great first step for his organisation. “It’s fine to start from any point, but the pledge makes it easy to move forward,” he said. “Staff will readily engage as a team in doing the pledge and actions, and people are more aware of Mental Health than you think. Get your Senior Management Team on board from the start to make changes easy.”

Employees brainstorm with sticky notes

Roisin from Forkers Limited praised the Mental Health First Aiders​Implementing Mental Health First Aiders: a guide for employers PDF The only effective, sustainable approach to employee wellbeing involves the whole organisation. This guide explains how to recruit, train, and assess your Mental Health First Aiders.Free By: Mental Health First Aid England View resource programme, stating it was the “best training we ever put employees on.”

“We have seen the benefits in all aspects of our business since we started on this journey seven years ago,” she said. “This is a journey that you need to make sure all key decision makers in your company are buying into as well, you want to make sure you embed it into the foundations of your company.”

Here are some great tops tips from other small organisations:

  • Start small, but make it regular. Set aside an hour a month ( or a week is even better) dedicated to mental health. Encourage people to use the time to go for a walk​Importance of being active PDF This one-page PDF from Unilever suggests three tests you can perform to test your own flexibility and balance, which are key indicators of your physical health.Free By: Unilever View resource, a massage, yoga, meditate – anything that helps to boost the happy hormones – Lauren, Transform Lives Company
  • Have a designated Mental Health Lead if possible, and have staff members who are willing to contribute towards a wellbeing team – Louise, Oak Green School
  • Develop a mental health and wellbeing plan or policy so it is clear the things that you are offering and organising for staff wellbeing – Lynette, Mind In Haringey
  • Let the team know who the Mental Health First Aider is, and make it clear we are here to listen and help in any way possible – Avril, Tweed Wealth Management
  • Sign the Mental Health at Work Commitment and ensure you share information so colleagues know when, where and how to seek support – Daxa, IMD Solicitors LLP
  • People mostly over pressurise themselves – so help them to know what they don’t need to do – Karen, MP Limited

We received so many contributions that we couldn’t include them all here. But we created this word cloud from the responses. The bigger a word is, the more often it appeared in the tips and advice small businesses gave us.

A word cloud

It’s heartening to see words like ‘caring’, ‘kind’, ‘happy’ and ‘understanding’ lighting up the word cloud. We hope these values are going to set the tone for employers in 2023, helping bring about a compassionate workplace where everybody feels supported to talk about their mental wellbeing.

A huge thank you to all of our contributors. And, from our team to yours, a very happy holiday season and best wishes for the New Year.

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