A Wellness Action Plan will help you support your team members’ mental health

Mental health conditions cost Australian employers billions of dollars each year in both absenteeism and ‘presenteeism’ – that’s when staff turn up to work while unwell, and are unproductive.

In fact, a staff member with untreated depression could cost your organisation as much as $9,660 a year.

And while your organisation might already have a broad mental health policy in place, have you ever considered implementing an action plan tailored to each staff member’s individual wellbeing needs?

UK mental health charity Mind has created a tool to achieve just that.

Known as the Wellness Action Plan (WAP), the personalised and practical tool moves away from the reactive management of absence due to sickness, towards supporting staff wellbeing year-round – whether they’re currently experiencing mental health problems or not.

By providing structure around mental health conversations in the workplace, the tool can also provide a boost to staff productivity, performance and job satisfaction.

A proactive approach

The WAP helps individual staff to identify:

  • What keeps them well at work,
  • What might cause them to become unwell, and
  • The support they’d like to receive from their manager to boost their wellbeing or support them to recover.

Ultimately, it should be an empowering tool that gives staff ownership of the practical steps needed to help them stay well at work, manage a mental health problem or even return to work after an absence due to poor mental health.

This personalised strategy towards mental health in the workplace sends a clear message that being well matters – and that the traditional reactive, blanket approach to managing sickness absence is losing relevance.

Drawing up a WAP

Designed to be treated as a live and flexible document, the WAP should be written and owned by each individual staff member as an expression of his or her own personal choices, experiences and needs.

The person’s manager should play an integral role in providing guidance, discussing the plan and supporting the staff member – while being careful not to influence them with advice or suggestions.

Here are nine questions that Mind suggests your staff wellness action plans include:

 1. What helps you stay mentally healthy at work?

For example, taking an adequate lunch break away from your desk, getting some exercise before or after work or in your lunch break, light and space in the office, and opportunities to get to know colleagues.

 2. What can your manager do to proactively support you to stay mentally healthy at work?

For example, regular feedback and catch-ups, flexible working patterns, explaining wider organisational developments.

 3. Are there any situations at work that can trigger poor mental health for you?

For example, conflict at work, organisational change, tight deadlines, something not going to plan.

 4. How might experiencing poor mental health impact on your work?

For example, you may find it difficult to make decisions, struggle to prioritise work tasks, or difficulty with concentration, drowsiness, confusion, or headaches.

 5. Are there any early warning signs that we might notice when you are starting to experience poor mental health?

For example, changes in normal working patterns and withdrawing from colleagues.

 6. What support could be put in place to minimise triggers or help you to manage the impact?

For example, extra catch-up time with your manager, guidance on prioritising workload, flexible working patterns, consider reasonable adjustments.

 7. Are there elements of your individual working style or temperament that it is worth your manager being aware of?

For example, a preference for more face-to-face or more email contact, a need for quiet reflection time prior to meetings or creative tasks, negotiation on deadlines before they are set, having access to a mentor for questions you might not want to bother your manager about, having a written plan of work in place which can be reviewed and amended regularly, clear deadlines if you have a tendency to over-work a task, tendency to have particularly high or low energy in the morning or in the afternoon.

 8. If we notice early warning signs that you are experiencing poor mental health – what should we do?

For example, talk to you discreetly about it or contact someone that you have asked to be contacted.

 9. What steps can you take if you start to experience poor mental health at work? Is there anything we need to do to facilitate them?

For example, you might like to take a break from your desk and go for a short walk, or ask your line manager for support.

Of course the manager and your organisation more broadly have a responsibility to make sure processes are in place to keep any data confidential, only to be shared with the permission of the staff member.

Mind’s downloadable resource includes more information, plus a template to help get started with the WAP process in your organisation. You can download Mind’s Wellness Action Planning guide for managers here.

Does your organisation have individualised mental health plans for staff? Share your experiences in the comments below!

 

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