Open Minds: why we’re talking about mental health at work

20 July 2017

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week from 9-15th October 2017. We thought this was a great time to talk about our approach to workplace wellbeing at Commonsense. We’ve recently updated our health & safety policy to make it clear that we consider mental wellbeing a core part of staff health. We thought we’d share why.

All staff are encouraged to discuss any concerns they have about their mental wellbeing with their manager on the understanding that in doing so they can expect to be treated with respect and supported in the same way as if they had disclosed a physical illness.

-        A quote from our Health & Safety Policy, July 2017.

 

an illustration of mental wellness    

Why is mental health important to an ethical retailer?

Mental wellbeing is something that affects all people. One in five Kiwis will experience mental illness this year and almost 50% of us will experience a mental illness during our life time (anxiety and depression are the most common).  

So why does this matter to us at Commonsense? Well, it means that some of our staff will experience mental distress while working with us. How we respond to this is important. Not only because it's (common)sense to support our staff when running a successful business, but also because of our values.

 

Why talk about mental health at work?

Open Minds is an initiative of the Mental Health Foundation NZ. It's a programme designed to equip managers with the confidence and skills to talk about mental health in the workplace. According to Open Minds, the benefits of talking about mental health at work include:

            • More positive mental health (less depression, stress, burnout)
            • Better physical health
            • Reduced absenteeism
            • Lower staff turnover
            • Improved work performance, motivation, commitment and energy
            • Less tension and conflict, more connectedness, kindness, tolerance and patience

 

Why it’s important to TALK about 'talking about mental health at work'

When workplaces don’t explicitly mention mental wellness in key documents and processes, we are implicitly sending the message that it’s not okay to bring these things up. This means that staff members will be LESS likely to bring them up. They may have very real concerns about bringing up mental health issues at work. They may worry that their employer won’t think they’re capable of doing their job or that it won’t be kept confidential.

If staff don’t bring up mental wellness concerns early on, employers lose a vital opportunity to support staff and enable them to do their best work, before things get to crisis point.

At Commonsense, we had lots of anecdotal reports about our managers responding really well when staff members raised an issue related with their mental wellness. BUT we decided that this wasn’t enough: we decided to explicitly state our approach to mental wellbeing so that all staff, whether they’re new or part-time, would feel more comfortable bringing up any concerns.

 

How we talk about mental wellbeing at Commonsense

We decided to take the following steps in how we relate to staff mental wellness:

(a) We acknowledge mental wellness in our Health & Safety Policy: 'All staff are encouraged to discuss any concerns they have about their mental wellbeing with their manager on the understanding that in doing so they can expect to be treated with respect and supported in the same way as if they had disclosed a physical illness."

(b) We acknowledge mental wellness as an important component of health as part of our induction process;

(c) We provide our managers with access to resources about safely talking about mental wellness with staff; and

(d) We aim to encourage a culture where talking about mental wellbeing is okay. We do this by things like talking about it in our staff newsletter or putting posters up in our staff rooms.

 

We’re proud to have formalised our approach to mental wellbeing and think it helps us support our staff better! If you’re interested in supporting your own workplace to talk about mental wellbeing, take a look at Open Minds. They have heaps of great resources. 

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