Where do you start when looking into improving mental health at work?

In my workplace mediation practice, I often see painful disputes that could have been prevented by a better understanding of mental health and the workplace. The UK government’s publication of the paper ‘Thriving at Work’ (2017) marked a sea-change in appreciation of the impact of poor mental health at work.

Last week, HRH Prince William came to my neighbouring town Bristol, to launch a new online portal to an extensive bank of resources on fostering workplace wellbeing: Mental Health at Work. There are a fantastic range of tools for improving mental health at work on the site, but how do you know where to start?

So this week, to find out what was really appealing to people in a workplace setting, I asked the 45 participants on one of my Workplace Mental Health Awareness courses, what they were taking away from my course:

Please name 2 tools/concepts you are taking away from today’s course

that you found useful or might use in your work-life

Here is what they told me…

Top 6 Tools for Improving Mental Health at Work

#6. Walking meetings 

Meetings rarely cheer the heart, so perhaps it’s not surprising that 6% of the 70 comments I received reflected this one simple idea: it is fun/ok/healthy to hold meetings outside, on foot! In her TEDTalk on walking meetings, Nilofer Merchant suggests that “sitting has become the smoking of our generation and of course there are health consequences to this…” She swears by walking meetings.

#5. Wellness Action Plans 

7% of comments signalled that this excellent resource from the charity Mind would be something they would look into further. The Wellness Action Plan is excellent template that gives guidance and a framework for a manager to learn more about their team member’s wellbeing, and co-create a plan to support that person in their role. Needless to say, I encourage managers to try making a plan for themselves first, and really understand how to support their own wellbeing.

#4 Mindfulness / mediation

8% of comments expressed an interest in exploring mindfulness as a way to promote wellbeing at work. Participants were particularly keen to explore Headspace.

#3 Facts and know-how: greater understanding and awareness of mental health 

13% of comments simply stated that they really valued greater knowledge about mental health:  the facts and figures; the signs and symptoms; knowing what to look out for in colleagues; having access to ‘signposting’ resources they could share. Mind is a great resource for understanding more about mental health and how to support yourself and your colleagues at work.

#2 Skills for communicating well about mental health

A sizeable 30% of comments focussed on being given the skills and confidence to talk to others about mental health, so that they could more easily create a culture of openness, or supportively enquire after someone’s wellbeing, or just share details about their own mental health with greater ease. Campaigns like Time To Change – the Employer’s Pledge really help break the stigma about mental ill-health in the workplace.

#1 The 5 Ways to Wellbeing 

By far and away the most popular tool amongst the participants, at a weighty 36% of comments, was The 5 Ways to Wellbeing. This set of five reminders, set out by the New Economics Foundation in 2008, seems to give us permission to get back to some of the habits which create work-life balance and enjoyment again. What are the 5 Ways?:

  • connect – keep in touch with family and friends, see work colleagues socially
  • be active – get away from the desk, go to the gym to destress
  • take notice – take time to be present to things that uplift you
  • keep learning – learn something new, or master something old
  • give – share your time with colleagues, take up your volunteering days, raise money for a charity at work


My training on Improving Mental Health at Work

I am an independent workplace mediator and trainer, specialising in mental health and wellbeing. Ask me about my training courses, some of which I deliver in partnership with the charity Bath Mind and which carry CPD accreditation. Email me at arabella{at}arabellatresilian.com or call 07769774671.

What did the participants of the seminar this week say about my course?

90% of 45 participants rated me as ‘Excellent’ (and the other 10% as ‘Good’) and their comments included:

  • Well-articulated and engaging!
  • Very insightful talk – really enjoyed it!
  • Very good. It would be great if everyone in the firm took part in this training.
  • Great session. Thank you!