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  • Dean Williamson

The essential ingredient of mentally healthy workplaces

When we're asked to present at conferences or on podcasts, one of the questions we often get asked is - "what is one thing that organisations can do to become more mentally healthy for employees?"

There's an old saying - "We recruit for attitude and train for skill”. It's survived a long time for a reason - skills can be taught, but attitude is much harder to change. Our answer is to have an attitude towards mental health, not just a series of skills or interventions.

So, putting it bluntly, the most essential ingredient for mentally healthy workplaces is attitude.
Stressed worker
Too much organisational pressure is one of our indicators that an organisation is puttings its needs above those of its employees

This might sound easy, but it's a huge reorientation. Mentally healthy workplaces focus on the needs of their staff. As soon as an organisation is putting its needs over those of its people, practices will start to take a toll on mental health. Coaching/supervision meetings will be missed, hours will be longer, pressure will be on, communication will be short, and damaging behaviours will resurface.

And this attitude has to permeate. It has to be the attitude of leaders, of managers and of team members. All need to acknowledge the human needs of those around them, and treat others with care, respect fairness and consideration.

We fundamentally agree with Amina Aitsi-Selmi that psychological safety is one of the most important characteristics of a mentally healthy workplace. However, this will never eventuate without an attitude of welcoming holism and psychological safety.

It's one thing to know what to move towards, it a whole other thing to have the capability to move there.

Without a pervasive attitude of humanity, things aren't likely to improve a great deal.

Mentally healthy workplaces work well with the green and teal levels of our organisational development model. The organisaton needs to be able to reconcile the complexity of staff wellbeing AND organisational achievement. Anything less developed than these levels is likely to revert back to a number of unwanted mindsets and practices.

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