A good way of finding out about the mental health and wellbeing picture in your organisation is to run an audit. It may be that you’re in a leadership position and can instigate yourself. Or you may need to speak to your manager and propose that the leadership adopt this approach. Either way, this section will help, as it gives an outline of how to go about running a mental health and wellbeing audit.
What is a mental health and wellbeing 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?
There may be a number of reasons why you may choose to run a health and wellbeing audit.
Research by Time To Change across 46 organisations and 15,000 employees found that 40% of respondents have experienced stress, low mood or mental health problems while in employment.
64% of respondents said they went into work even when experiencing poor mental health, with their performance being affected.
30% 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.
56% of respondents said they would like to do more to support mental health in the workplace, but didn’t feel that they had the right training.
Another survey of 1,104 working adults found that 49% would be unlikely to tell their employer about a problem with their mental health.
It’s clear that, even with the best intentions, senior management don’t always have a clear picture of what’s going on in their organisation.
A mental health audit or review can help make things clearer.
- It can help you understand what’s happening now in your organisation – 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 should help you understand if any interventions you currently offer meet the needs of your workforce.
- It will provide you with a baseline against which you can evaluate any interventions you put in place.
How should we run an audit?
Think about why you’re running this audit
Look at some of the reasons in the list above, and make sure you’re clear what the purpose of your audit is.
Think about 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
- 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?
- 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 staff 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 staff who are not based at a computer, how will you ensure they have access to the survey?
You may wish to ask some of these 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.
- Validated tools. You may want to use a research-based, validated tool or scale to gather comparable data, such as the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS) or the Single-item measure of self-rated mental health.
- The Health and Safety Executive offers a Management Standards Indicator Tool that can be used to help understand the risks to employees of high stress levels at work.
- Confidential interviews with staff with lived experience of mental health problems. It’s often easier to include interviews in your audit if you employ an external consultant. They can be a good way to help you understand employees’ experiences in more detail.
Think about how you’ll communicate the process to staff
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 in the process.
Think about what you will do with the results
Use them to develop a clear action plan with timescales and ongoing ‘temperature checks’ to assess how things are going.
Think about how you’ll communicate the results and next steps to staff too
It’s important to 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.