The simple act of asking again

Jo Loughran

Director, Time to Change

Time to Change is a growing social movement run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. We’re working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Since we started out in 2007, we’ve reached millions of people and have already seen a big improvement in attitudes and behaviour.

With many of us spending the bulk of our waking hours at work, tackling mental health stigma in the workplace is really important—especially when one in six British workers are affected by mental health problems every year.

More than nine in ten employees off sick with stress give a different reason for their absence.

It makes good business sense​Thriving at work: the Stevenson / Farmer review of mental health and employers PDF An independent review into how employers can better support all employees' mental health, including recommended core standards.Free By: Department for Work and Pensions / Department of Health and Social Care View resource too. Mental health problems are the leading cause of absence, costing employers around £1,035 per employee per year. And yet more than nine in ten employees off sick with stress give a different reason for their absence.

That’s why we’ve established the Time to Change Employer Pledge to ensure that employees who face mental health problems are better supported. More than 800 employers—from FTSE 100 companies and leading retailers to Government departments and local authorities—have already signed our pledge to demonstrate their commitment to tackling mental health stigma in their workplaces.

Our pledged employers receive support, access to our resources, connection to other pledged employers and free spaces on our masterclasses to learn from leading employers about how they’ve opened up the conversation about mental health in their workplace. We work with organisations to create action plans tailored to their culture and needs. We have lots of examples on our website with actions ranging from running World Mental Health Day events to training for line managers and support for employee champions to share their experiences with colleagues.

We provide a wide variety of communication resources and support to help businesses normalise conversations around mental health—everything from conversation postcards and bunting to screensavers, email signatures and posters. In addition, we provide suggested text for intranets and staff newsletters to make it as easy as possible to make mental health a talking point.

We're encouraging employees to 'Ask Twice' if their colleague says they're fine.

This World Mental Health Day, we’ve provided our pledged employers with a pack of ideas, information and resources to mark the event. Coinciding with the launch of our latest campaign, Ask Twice, we’re encouraging employees to ‘Ask Twice’ if their colleague says they’re ‘fine’ when they may be struggling with their mental health.

A man trapped under a log in a forest

When you arrive at work the usual routine is to ask your colleague, ‘How are you?’ with the automatic response, ‘I’m fine thanks, how are you?’. However, our research shows that when asked, over three quarters of us would tell friends, family or colleague we’re ‘fine’, even when we’re not.

Many people feel that just because someone asks them how they are it doesn’t mean they really want to know, and some just don’t want to be a burden. That’s why we’re encouraging people to ‘Ask Twice’—the simple act of asking again, with interest, shows a genuine willingness to talk and listen.

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Your guide to mental health at work

Whether you work with 10 people, 10,000 people or just yourself, paying attention to mental health in the workplace has never been more important.

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