Running a mental health and wellbeing audit
A good way of finding out about the mental health and wellbeing picture in your organisation is to run an audit.
An audit helps you get an accurate picture of the current situation in your workplace. It usually consists of a review of current policies and an anonymous staff survey. You may also choose to conduct confidential interviews with employees who’ve experienced mental health problems while working for you.
Some organisations will run an internal audit. Others will choose to employ an independent consultant to ensure confidentiality and impartiality for staff.
Why run an audit?
Even with the best intentions, senior management don’t always have a clear picture of what’s going on in their organisation. Everyone will have a different experience, and an audit helps managers understand the actual experience of mental health support on the ground.
Research by Business in the Community has shown that 39 per cent of employees have experienced poor mental health in work.
64 per cent of respondents to a Time to Change survey said they went into work even when experiencing poor mental health, with their performance being affected.
30 per cent felt that they wouldn’t be able to talk openly with their line manager if they were feeling stressed, and only half knew where to find mental health policies or information on support.
A mental health audit or review can help you understand where the gaps in training, information and support really are. It can give staff a chance to share information about their mental health anonymously. It can also provide you with a baseline against which you can evaluate any measures you put in place.
Who will run the audit?
Will staff be comfortable with an internal audit? How will you ensure that anonymity and confidentiality are preserved? The charity Mind can help you set up an audit as part of their Workplace Wellbeing Index. Alternatively, you can employ an external consultant.
How will we gather information and what will we include?
A policy and procedures review
These are some helpful questions to include in a policy and procedures review.
- Is stress included in your health and safety policy? The Health and Safety Executive has more information.
- Do you have a separate mental health policy? Does this include promoting staff wellbeing as well as managing mental health problems?
- Does the organisation have a mental health and wellbeing at work programme to support and promote effective mental health engagement?
- What are current levels of sickness absence for mental health? Bear in mind that these may not be accurate if employees choose not to disclose.
- Do you have guidance for managers about managing mental health, mental health-related sickness absence and return to work?
- How are managers trained?
- Do employees receive any training or guidance about managing mental health at work?
- Does your organisation use Wellness Action Plans?
An anonymous (or confidential) staff survey
Think about how you’ll ensure employees feel confident answering the survey. If you have employees who are not based at a computer, how will you ensure they have access to the survey? You may wish to ask some of the following questions.
- Have you experienced stress, low mood or a mental health problem while employed at your organisation?
- What affects your mental health at work?
- Have you taken time off for stress, low mood or a mental health problem – and if so did you disclose the real reason?
- Have you disclosed this to a manager – and if so, did you get the support you wanted?
- Do you feel confident talking to your manager about your mental health?
- Are you aware of or have you accessed existing policies and initiatives?
- As a line manager, do you feel you’ve been given sufficient training and guidance on how to support your team?
- Do you think the organisation supports employees with mental health problems?
- Do you want to give any more information and/or would you be comfortable taking part in a confidential interview?
It may also help to provide a comments box where staff can submit anonymous written comments and experiences.
Interviews with staff who have experienced mental health problems can be a good way to help you understand employees’ experiences in more detail. It’s often easier to include interviews in your audit if you employ an external consultant.
Communicating with employees throughout the process
Your employees need to understand the benefits of taking part, what will be done with the information they provide, and how the results will be used. It’s important that staff feel it’s a worthwhile exercise and part of a wider commitment to mental health. You could consider making an organisational pledge as part of this commitment. But be careful not to force or coerce employees into participating.
Use the results to develop a clear action plan with timescales and ongoing ‘temperature checks’ to assess how things are going.
Show employees you’re planning to take tangible action as a result of their feedback. Have a look at our information on what organisations can do to improve employees’ mental health.
Show employees what action you have taken and how their involvement changed things for the better.