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What can my organisation do to improve employees’ mental health and wellbeing?


Expert reviewer, Richard Smith, Specialist Nurse Advisor for Mental Health at Bupa
Next review due September 2023

Mental health and wellbeing at work is everyone’s responsibility. Senior management has an important part to play. This page has suggestions for organisation-wide initiatives to support employees and ensure that your organisation is able to:

  • address and prevent mental ill health caused or exacerbated by work
  • reduce sickness absence caused by mental health problems
  • support employees with a mental health condition to thrive


a team at work discussing

Getting started

  • Find out how things are at the moment. Not all of these suggestions will be right for every organisation. A mental health audit can help you find out more. You can’t make effective changes until you know where the problems lie.
  • Create a statement of intent or sign an organisational pledge. Many organisations have used this one from Time To Change.
  • Make sure senior leaders are on board; they should be role models for good practice. You may need to make a business case. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that a named senior manager has responsibility for making employee mental health and wellbeing a core priority.
  • Set up a working group, including a cross-section of staff and representatives with lived experience of mental health problems. Your working group may be responsible for developing strategy, reviewing policies, procedures and staff information, and setting up new initiatives. They may also act as workplace wellbeing champions.

Plans and policies

  • Create a mental health at work plan. This should explain how your organisation plans to promote good mental health and outline the support available for those who need it.
  • Mental health should also be considered in other relevant policies, for example sickness absence and health and safety. You can read more about your legal obligations here. Get more guidance and information from the Health and Safety Executive and ACAS.
  • Ensure plans and polices are communicated to all employees (perhaps through a staff event). Make sure that employees know where to find them online and include information on policies when you induct new staff. It may also be helpful to create a simple fact sheet or flow chart with clear information about what actions people need to take if they are feeling unwell. This could be included in a policy, but it should be simple and easy to understand.
  • Create an accessible source of mental health and wellbeing information, tailored to your organisation. You could include links to policies, procedures, initiatives, training updates, personal stories, news and useful signposts.

“Our intranet also allows self-referral to occupational health and external employee support including financial advice, mindfulness and bereavement counselling.” – John

Training and awareness

Working life

  • Flexible working can help staff look after themselves and establish a work–life balance that works for them. For example, they may choose to start and finish later a few times a week to accommodate exercise. Research has found that flexible schedules increases employee productivity and lowers absenteeism.
  • Long working hours are associated with symptoms of depression. It’s important to ensure staff take lunch breaks, work sensible hours and avoid working at weekends.
  • Technology can have a detrimental effect on employee wellbeing. It can prevent employees from switching off and having important time to relax outside working hours. Some organisations have a specific email window, set out in a policy, outside of which no emails should be sent. Others encourage employees to be mindful of when they send emails and include a disclaimer at the end – for example: “I work flexibly at [organisation]. If I am sending this email outside of regular hours, it’s because it suits my current schedule. I don’t expect you to read, respond or action it outside of your working hours”
  • Peer support, mentoring or buddy schemes may help employees feel more comfortable speaking openly. This can be especially helpful if they’re not confident about speaking to their manager.
  • Introduce Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) for all staff.
  • Tell people what you’re doing and develop feedback mechanisms.

Make sure you communicate regularly and establish regular opportunities for them to offer feedback and suggestions. Some organisations have an anonymous suggestion box as well as regular surveys.

Practical steps

Evidence suggests that there are five key ways we can improve our wellbeing. Encourage staff to do something from this list each day. Make sure that wellbeing initiatives do not fall by the wayside during busy times. These are when people need them most.

  • Be active. Consider offering yoga, Pilates or other exercise sessions at times that are convenient for staff. Some places reward cycling to work with a few minutes of leave per journey. Shower and washing facilities on site can also help.
  • Take notice. Consider offering mindfulness sessions. How could you include mindful thinking in daily working practices? Some managers choose to start or close meetings with a mindfulness or relaxation session.
  • Connect. Regular social events can help staff build stronger relationships and enrich their daily lives.
  • Give. Some organisations give ‘volunteering days’ on top of regular leave. Others encourage volunteering as part of a wider charity partnership.
  • Keep learning. Learning new things increases your confidence. It’s fun and rewarding. How could you help staff set new learning challenges for themselves?

“My company have introduced coffee afternoons to get people away from their desk for a short period of time and gives everyone the chance to relax and talk without the stress of focusing on work related issues.” – Andrews



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Related information

    • Stevenson D and Farmer P (2017) Thriving at work: the Stevenson-Farmer review of mental health and employers. GOV.UK. www.gov.uk, accessed May 2020
    • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Healthy workplaces: improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing Quality standard [QS147]. NICE. www.nice.org.uk, published March 2017
    • Standards for tackling work related stress. Health and Safety Executive. HSE.gov.uk. www.hse.gov.uk, accessed May 2020
    • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Mental wellbeing at work. Public health guideline [PH22]. Recommendation 2. NICE. www.nice.org.uk, published November 2009, updated in 2018
    • Beauregard, T. Alexandra and Henry, Lesley C. (2009) Making the link between work-life balance practices and organizational performance. Human resource management review, 19, pp. 9-22. ISSN 1053-4822
    • Harvey SB, Modini M, Joyce S, et al Can work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problems Occup Environ Med 2017;74:301-310
    • CIPD and Simply Health, Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey Report March 2020. CIPD. www.cipd.co.uk, accessed May 2020
    • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Mental wellbeing at work. Public health guideline [PH22]. Recommendation 1. NICE. www.nice.org.uk, published November 2009, accessed May 2020
    • Five ways to wellbeing: the evidence. New Economics Foundation. www.neweconomics.org, published October 2008
  • Reviewed by Clare Foster, Freelance Health Editor, and Marcella McEvoy, Specialist Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, September 2020
    Expert reviewer, Richard Smith, Specialist Nurse Advisor for Mental Health at Bupa
    Next review due September 2023



Did our information help you?

We’d love to hear what you think. Our short survey takes just a few minutes to complete and helps us to keep improving our health information.

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