How to take a strategic approach to mental health comms

Jo Hooper

I’ve written before about the pros and cons of awareness days, weeks and months for mental health in the workplace.

For internal comms practitioners, one of the cons is that it encourages a ‘tactics first’ approach. 

This week I’ve been working on a series of factsheets for the Institute of Internal Comms on communicating around mental health at work (launching soon!) and it’s got me thinking about the need for a strategic approach.

It can be challenging to develop a strategy for an area as difficult as mental health at work, so I wanted to share some ideas with you.

If this is a topic you’d like to explore in more detail for your workplace, let’s talk – I run bespoke campaign planning sessions that I can bring to your team. Get in touch or click on the image below for more info.

I’ve condensed some tips into this four minute video

READ ON FOR MORE…

Getting started – stakeholders 

You’re always going to have to work in partnership on anything related to mental health at work. There is no identified ‘home’ for mental health within organisations, so it’s important to work with others across the organisation in partnership.

BUT, be careful not to get tied up in red tape. It’s too easy to let fear of treading on toes paralyse us, when we just need to get on and DO.

Some thoughts on stakeholders….

  • Top of the tree: You need their buy in. When grappling with leaders to see mental health as an issue to be focused on, you might need to talk about the commercial imperative – succinctly summarised by the Centre for Mental Health. 
  • HR: Usually a thorny – or tense! – relationship, you need to get on and work together. No point getting caught up in internal debates when it’s on an issue as important as your people’s wellbeing
  • Health and Safety/Facilities team: You’ll at the very least need their help to install visual elements of your campaign in offices; at the other end of the spectrum, they might be a key partner (if you’re in construction for example)
  • Managers: They need to be aware of the issues, engaged, understanding and ready to support their teams – no small ask! There’s a lot of work to do with them and they should be a key audience for you

Objectives

When you’ve got a mix of stakeholders and multiple audiences, as well as a tough topic, I find it useful to think about your objectives in this way: what do you want each audience to think, feel and do?

Do you want managers to think that they have a role to play in supporting their teams? Do you want them to feel engaged? Supported? Confident? And what do you want them to do as a result of your campaign?

In my bespoke one day workshops for IC teams, we’ll delve deeper into this and develop an engagement campaign for your organisation.

mental health at work

Showing your worth

I think the IC industry has a collective mental health issue itself – we don’t see and struggle to communicate our worth – but that’s a topic for another blog!

For today, I want to share some thoughts on how you can measure and evaluate your activity around mental health at work. 

Some ideas:

  • Get to know your people: an anonymous survey of staff to understand the prevalence of mental health issues, digging into drivers, triggers etc. This can be difficult to do internally, due to the fears around lack of confidentiality, so consider an external partner.
  • Pulse surveys: test whether your campaign reaching people, being understood, resonating.
  • Behaviour: can you test whether more people have accessed the EAP service?; has there been a reduction in stress-related sickness? These are long term measures, but important to try to track

I hope this has been a useful intro to how you can approach mental health comms strategically. I’ll be taking part in tonight’s #CommsChat on Twitter all about this topic – join me from 8pm tonight with Communicate Mag.

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