Mental health matters: fostering an open company culture

25 May 2017


From surviving to thriving: why mental health matters


CWMT Trustee Michael Cole-Fontayn offers five tips on fostering an open company culture. Thanks to CITYA.M. newspaper.


Following Mental Health Awareness Week earlier in May, my thoughts turned to this year’s theme: surviving or thriving. The theme marks a turning point in our approach, shifting from mental ill-health to exploring how we can cultivate emotional and mental resilience.


Many people will experience difficulty in their lives. Across Europe, one in four people have experienced at least one episode of psychological disorders in the past year.


For the financial services in particular, the intense working culture is well-documented and the statistics are stark. Jobs in the sector are 44 per cent more likely to lead to stress-related illnesses than the average job, according to the City Mental Health Alliance.


Building an emotionally resilient workplace that provides everyone with the resources and support to manage the stress of everyday life and work productively and happily is critical.


For some years BNY Mellon has been introducing initiatives to help our employees bring their best selves to work. From experience, here are five practical steps we’ve found to support employees.


1. Flexible working


Long and rigid working hours are known to have a significant impact on a person’s physical and psychological health. Flexible working, on the other hand, enables employees to work more productively on their own time, or in their own homes, to the benefit of both employer and employee.


2. Mental health training


Line management plays a huge role in driving emotional wellbeing, Effective training gives managers the confidence to proactively manage employees and can help them identify the often hidden forms of disability, and understand what workplace adjustments would help an employee to bring their best selves to work. At the same time training can help employees identify early symptoms and seek help.


3. Emotional Resilience


A recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK showed that 41 per cent of people surveyed did not talk to their manager about their conditions due to a sense of “shame”. Removing societal – and workplace – stigma is essential to the long-term resolution of these issues. Employers can combat this by dedicating time to groups or an individual to openly share experiences of emotional wellbeing.


4. Diversity of thought


Individuals with common mental health problems are employed across all industrial sectors, and their contributions to the UK economy are approximately nine times the cost of mental health problems to economic output – at £226bn, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Everyone has something to bring to the workforce. Mental health champions can help build diversity of thought into an inclusive company culture.


5. Holistic approach


Emotional wellbeing should be given parity alongside physical, social, and financial wellbeing. As an employer, adopting a holistic approach to staff wellbeing can have a direct impact on mental health.

For example, studies have shown that physical activity has an anxiety-reducing effect. As a result, simple initiatives that encourage staff to be more physically active, such as cycling to work or walking up the stairs, could have a positive impact on their physical and psychological health.

To conclude, I want to emphasise that these steps cannot be taken in isolation. I encourage financial institutions and business leaders across Europe to untie and put their full support behind building a mentally healthy workplace.