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Feeling able to bring ‘whole self’ to work

Simon Blake, CEO - Mental Health First Aid England

Many managers recognise how vital it is to create inclusive working environments where everyone feels psychologically safe to perform at their best – but there is still work to do to make this a reality. A third (32%) of managers say it negatively impacts people’s mental health when people are unable to be their self at work, and a similar number say productivity dips (36%). Bringing your whole self to work means feeling empowered and comfortable to bring all parts of your identity to work, including your background, sexuality, religion, gender, health and mental health and wellbeing.

When asked what would help create a culture where everyone can bring their whole self to work, 41% of managers said improved awareness of different people’s life experiences. 42% stated a better understanding of people’s needs and personal circumstances and over a quarter (29%), said more training would help.

Managers also reported that they believe their teams are experiencing poor mental health, with a third saying they thought team members were feeling ‘run down’. On top of this, managers themselves are feeling the pressure too. 75% said they had experienced symptoms of mental ill health due to work-related stress or anxiety in the past six months. Among the most common symptoms, one in four experienced a loss in confidence and 38% of managers said they had trouble sleeping, with 45% stating they were ‘run down’.

MHFA England is calling on employers to give their managers the training, time and tools to do the job of managing well. With the right investment they can better support their own wellbeing, that of their teams and drive positive transformation in workplace mental health and performance.

MHFA England released research to mark My Whole Self Day on 14 March. As part of the campaign for workplace culture change, MHFA England is calling on employers to create environments where everyone is safe to bring their whole self to work.

To mark My Whole Self Day, MHFA England developed a free Manager’s toolkit to support managers through the employee life cycle, giving them guidance and tools to support them in their role.

“Like many, I became a manager as part of progression in my role, not because I had learnt the art of managing people. It wasn’t until later when I had training that I really understood the confidence, skills and understanding required to be a good manager.

“People management is too often a role that organisations fail to invest in. I feel passionately that managers should have the time and training to enable them to do the job well. Investing in training for those with people management responsibilities will help create inclusive team cultures where everyone is seen, heard and valued.

“This My Whole Self Day we’re proud to launch a free and vital resource to help empower managers and give them the tools they need to support wellbeing and productivity, where people can confidently start conversations with their teams about mental health in an empathetic way.”

Daisy Hooper, Head of Policy and Innovation at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), said: “Line managers play a crucial role in supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing. They may be the first port of call for someone who is struggling or they may be best placed to notice when a colleague’s behaviour changes. However, many lack the necessary training to effectively manage the increasing range of mental health problems in the workplace.

“At CMI, we whole-heartedly endorse MHFA England’s call for managers to be equipped with the skills to bring out the very best in their teams. This includes empowering managers to support their teams, listen to employees, and demonstrate empathy, particularly when dealing with difficult conversations. To do this, they need to encourage people to feel confident to bring their whole selves to work.

“Management is a skill set that needs to be nurtured and this toolkit is an important step towards providing the essential tools that managers need.”

Nicola Gillis, Vice President HR at HCA Healthcare UK, said: “At HCA Healthcare UK, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life and so naturally we understand our colleagues may need support with their mental health too. We hope to break barriers through this initiative and allow colleagues who are experiencing mental health issues to feel able to ask for, and accept help. I’m so very proud of this work and of our network of wonderful MHFAiders® equipped with their superb training provided by MHFA England.”

Mental health knowledge, awareness, and skills for managers  · MHFA England

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