The mental health equivalent of the ergonomic chair
14th May marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. Innumerable initiatives during this time will highlight the benefit of providing appropriate support for individuals with mental wellness challenges.
This tool provides a step by step guide (one for the employer and one for the employee), plus template letters, emails and further information to help both parties to achieve a positive outcome. A key part of this tool is about how to have good quality mental wellness conversations. The team at Kingston University is looking for employees and employers to trial the toolkit. If you are interested in reviewing the toolkit and providing feedback, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org further information.
For my part I will be sharing my thoughts and experience in speaking engagements for several organisations across the week. The focus of my work is also to promote the benefits of helping managers learn how to have good quality conversations with staff about their mental health. Without this training, such conversations often don't work - and that's because they deal with diverse & complex medical conditions with emotional beginnings and negative outcomes. These conversations leave managers outside their sphere of competence.
In my view the answer to this problem isn't to try and train managers to understand a range of highly complex medical conditions and the impact of them on mental health. My approach is to help managers learn how to have good, mentally healthy conversations with their staff. The conversational approach I promote is designed to be something that any manager is capable of having. And, more to the point, it puts managers directly into their zone of competence because the focus of the conversation is on the very things that they can influence - the workplace environment, co-working methods, culture, processes & behaviours - all of which can impact mental health.
We get this right, most of the time, with musculoskeletal conditions, where employers have learned to provide an ergonomic chair, a height adjustable desk, a computer screen arm that moves around, an ergonomic keyboard, and even an ergonomic mouse. What we now need to do is continue the move to persuading employers to do the same with mental health - by providing good quality conversations to prevent mental health problems arising, and clear support and guidance to support a return to work for those who do encounter mental wellness challenges.
With the efforts made by many across Mental Health Awareness Week, like Kingston University, organisations will soon learn how to provide the mental health equivalent of the ergonomic chair