Lucy Beresford talks to Reward's editor Helen Swire about improving mental wellbeing in the workplace

mental health issues

What are the key mental wellbeing challenges currently facing UK employers?

There's a two-fold problem: employees' workload, and the way in which their job stresses and insecurities manifest, can compromise their ability to function well, both in work productivity and in tensions at home. Overall demands at work can seriously affect employees' mood and their interaction with others. The other element is how well your workplace accommodates mental illness. Is there an open conversation about wellbeing or is it an environment hostile to the discussion?

Is mental wellness becoming a more open conversation, and if not, how can it be introduced?

It's certainly far more open as a workplace discussion point – but there's still a long way to go. There are now plenty of charities trying to raise awareness around wellness and what employers could and should be doing, and promoting the fact that it is simply essential to talk about it. And if the Royal Family, sportsmen and celebrities can talk about it – so can employers!

What are the best techniques to understand mental wellbeing problems in the workplace and overcome them?

There are many support services to help employees get help when they need it, for example Employee Assistance Programs. But it's got to be a dual approach of both offering benefits and leading by example. If mental illness is something that you understand personally as an employer or a person influence in a company, it's really powerful if you can share that experience with others, and get them to start opening up too. And if it's not something a company leader has personal experience of, other people in the company can take ownership of mental wellbeing: for example by leading a discussion service. Employees should feel that they have a forum where they can raise issues and discuss problems – in short, open conversation in the business.

What key things should employers be looking to do in 2017?

Counselling and therapy benefits are great things to put in place to help people nip issues, big or small, in the bud and prevent absenteeism before the problem grows too big. Actions speak louder than words – it's not just enough to say employees can talk through issues whenever they want. It has to be visible that you as an employer are very open to helping people and supporting mental wellness.

Why should people attend events like Reward Live?

It's all about peer to peer interaction: meeting other HRs and employers and hearing what works and what doesn't: learning from the challenges other people have faced and how they've overcome them.

Lucy Beresford will be speaking at Reward Live at 10.05 on Thursday 11 May. Reward Live takes place at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham and is free to attend (http://www.rewardlive.co.uk/rwl17/)

Lucy is a qualified psychotherapist, broadcaster and writer. An acclaimed author of both fiction and non-fiction, she also hosts a weekly radio show on LBC and is a regular reviewing the newspapers on Sky News.

As a former investment banker she has a unique insight as she assists businesspeople, entrepreneurs and career high-flyers in dealing with anything from stress and exhaustion, to addictions issues and depression. Along with the obvious workplace pressures she examines cultural, social and peer expectations, coping mechanisms, the pressure people put on themselves, and the warning signs of overwork.

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