Public Health England’s (PHE) mental health platform Every Mind Matters (EMM) helps people make small changes in their lives to improve their mental health and wellbeing. With increasing numbers of employees feeling anxious as they prepare to return to the workplace, PHE’s Karen Pinder, head of marketing for mental health, and Elizabeth (Liz) Sillitoe, partnership marketing lead, discuss how internal communicators can use EMM to help the transition.

17th June 2020

The core thing we want to get across is a recognition that people are going through change, and that it is okay to feel unsettled by this.

Karen Pinder, Public Health England

What is the significance of Every Mind Matters in the workplace?

Karen: Our mental health and wellbeing has a huge impact on our day-to-day lives, which means it also has a significant role to play in how we function and perform at work. Every Mind Matters can be used as a simple and easy way to facilitate the care of mental health in the workplace, improving wellbeing and contributing to the overall performance of employees.

Liz: We have seen a huge interest in our platform from employers across a wide range of sectors and industries since we launched in October 2019. It’s clear that there is an appetite to do more to support and address mental health at work.

Karen: Organisations know that staff welfare is incredibly important, but there can be issues around delivering it in a way that employees are comfortable with, and increasingly employers are acknowledging this.

Liz: EMM works so well because it is free to employers, and can complement the policies and support they already have in place, or be part of an organisation’s first offer to their employees. It’s designed to sit alongside the good offerings that are out there – not replace or undermine them.

How have you updated your guidance to cater to the needs of those who are returning to the workplace after being in lockdown?

Karen: We are currently in the process of updating our guidance to reflect this new phase, but we’ve already got some simple tips to help people adjust. The core thing we want to get across is a recognition that people are going through change, and that it is okay to feel unsettled by this.

While acknowledging the challenges, we also need to recognise the positives that will come out of people returning to work, such as having the opportunity to connect with their colleagues in person again and rebuilding more meaningful connections – something that digital communication can’t quite achieve.  

It will also enable people to get back into their former routines, which should bring some structure to those who were missing it. A report PHE ran recently found that four in ten Brits were struggling with sleep more than usual, but getting back into a routine is likely to improve sleeping habits – as well as other habits that may have been disrupted, such as eating – and that will be a positive.

We encourage people to also take the time to reflect on what they’ve been through and acknowledge how much resilience they’ve built up just by getting through the last few months.

How can organisations help returning employees feel comfortable when back in the workplace?

Liz: It’s important to set the scene for those who return to the workplace following a notable period of time, like you would when someone new joins the organisation. After a gap such as this one, it’s nice to reaffirm the culture of the organisation, and discuss any changes that will be in place moving forward.

It’s likely that some of those returning to the workplace after this challenging period will be feeling anxious or unsettled, so it’s important to let them know it is okay to have these feelings and that they can talk to their managers about it.

It is also important to pinpoint the support that is available, and make sure it is really easy to find and access.

How can internal communicators and leaders make the most of the EMM guidance when it comes to supporting employees?

Liz: Our platform has a “Mind Plan” that asks users a few questions about the way they are feeling and then provides a personalised action list tailored to their needs. It is an embeddable tool, which means it can be uploaded onto organisations’ intranets.

The Mind Plan can also be used by teams to help them to see how they can create a happy and healthy working environment.   

Internal communicators and leaders can also share and encourage employees to read and practise the vast range of simple changes that we suggest, which can be really beneficial to wellbeing – such as reframing unhelpful thoughts and making time to talk. In a workplace setting, employees need to know that they can take time out of their working day to action some of these, especially after the Covid-19 gap – for example, giving employees the time to go for a walk or run at lunch – and to ensure that they feel comfortable doing so.

With our busy lives, it can be hard for employees to know what support is available. Therefore, we encourage organisations to introduce something that we refer to as Every Mind Matters “ambassadors”. The role is not clinically certified – rather, appointed employees that are aware of the support available on mental health issues, including on the Every Mind Matters platform, can signpost their colleagues to it.

To support this, we would encourage internal communicators to relaunch and promote their organisation’s own policies that are already in place around support for mental health. If you have an employee assistance programme set up, for example, ensure employees know what is available.

Finally, how did organisations respond to Every Mind Matters pre-Covid-19, and how do you think they will take to it as they re-establish themselves in the workplace?

Liz: We were met with lots of enthusiasm when it first launched, and we found that people were really eager to take up the options Every Mind Matters provided. We did a range of webinars before we launched to give partners a chance to ask questions, and that’s how we gained a lot of feedback on how it would work in the workplace.

We ran a partner survey to find out how employers and their employees found the platform post-launch, and to see how it was being used. The feedback showed us that it was working really effectively, and there were really nice examples of how the advice on the platform brought people out of their shells, and out of social isolation.

This feels more relevant than ever, and we encourage those who are returning to the workplace after months of disruption to review how they can incorporate this NHS approved advice.

The core thing we want to get across is a recognition that people are going through change, and that it is okay to feel unsettled by this.

Karen Pinder, Public Health England

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