BY Kerstin Andlaw

Most companies are aware that stress and pressure are an everyday occurrence for most of their people, but few companies know what do about it beyond reducing workload and providing time off which often is not a viable and sustainable option.

The debate around whose responsibility it is to take care of people’s mental health and wellbeing is still out as well, which doesn’t drive widespread preventative solutions.

Having worked and continuing to work with companies, providing a radically different approach to improving mental wellbeing whilst increasing productivity has provided me with some insight into the struggles companies face in creating an impactful wellbeing strategy.

The first obstacle I see, is buy-in from the top. If the senior management and executive team see the value in supporting their people, it will happen, and something will be put in place to support them. If the buy-in isn’t there, nothing happens.

If buy-in is there, the next obstacle is; what to put in place to best support people?

Many companies have spent large sums of money on a whole variety of strategies to attempt to improve wellbeing. From weekly fruit bowls, to office yoga, table football in the office, social events, to pizzas or Friday beers… it’s pretty much all been done and very much lead by the likes of Google.

But does any of it really make a difference? And is it enough to simply provide things like these for your employees?

It is not a terrible idea, but it can be a tick box exercise. What it does show is a willingness and a commitment to staff, but it often doesn’t make a real and lasting difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.

A different approach is required.

Creating an impactful and lasting solution to support mental wellbeing at work requires various considerations:

Everyone is different and we all have different needs, aspirations and priorities, which means there is no one-size-fits-all. It also means that an employer can not solely be responsible for its people’s wellbeing. It requires people to take ownership of their wellbeing which can supported through the specific approaches and support and can be led by example from the top down.

Most companies and people still look at stress as something we need to manage. However, managing stress and pressure at work through working less, balancing work with enough downtime to counter the negative effects is all very well but it is not creating the desired effect as is evident in the prevailing stress amongst people nowadays. Therefore, a different approach is required.

We need to place people at the centre of the conversation.

Lastly, consider what actually works; what would make a real difference to your people? If you are unsure, hire an expert in the field, just like you’d do with your tax and other specialised areas.

In my experience and considering evidence-based research, the most impactful and lasting change is through a person-centred individual approach that considers the function of our human psyche instead of attempting to manage external circumstances, situations and people.

Therefore, what we need to do is change the conversation around mental health and wellbeing. We need to place people at the centre of the conversation. We need to inspire and empower people to own and create their experiences. We need to take action in providing valuable and transformative support and guidance instead of covering the issues with a Band-Aid or trying to change something that isn’t changeable.

This is not the sole responsibility of an employer, but an employer is in a position to create an environment that is conducive to drive a change in how we approach mental wellbeing which will benefit their people and inadvertently benefit the company. However, I believe this to be choice not a requirement.

What is your experience of mental wellbeing at work?