‘Speak to HR’ is a common response to any kind of question involving psychological health and safety at work, particularly where organisations do not have a whole-organisation approach to wellbeing. Directing people to HR might also be the standard reply where line managers are not empowered with the appropriate skills, training or knowledge around how to support wellbeing. Similarly, we might find any queries regarding physical health and safety being ‘forwarded’ to the health and safety team.
While HR may well have overarching responsibility for wellbeing strategy, it is line managers who are best placed to take the proactive and preventative action needed to protect their individual colleagues from work-related hazards to their psychological health.
To create an organisational culture in which colleagues can thrive and organisations can meet their legal obligations under the Health & Safety at Work Act 19741, the role of the line manager must include promoting positive wellbeing and protecting psychological health and safety at work.
The key competencies required for line managers in helping organisations meet their duty of care to manage risk include:
38% of managers are confident in having sensitive discussions and signposting people to expert sources of help when needed.
Research suggests getting this right means you may need to upskill managers. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) 2022 Health Wellbeing at Work report2 found only 38% of HR respondents agree that managers are confident in having sensitive discussions and signposting people to expert sources of help when needed. Even fewer (29%) agree managers are sufficiently confident and competent to spot the early warning signs of mental ill health. This isn’t surprising given that just over two-fifths (44%) of organisations are training managers to support staff with mental ill health.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for Mental Wellbeing at Work3 recommend:
ISO450034, the world’s first global guidelines for managing psychological health and safety at work, state organisations should:
The business case for investing in measures to tackle mental health issues is made clear in Deloitte’s 2022 Mental Health Report5, which states, “the estimated return for employers is on average £5.30 for every £1 invested”.
Organisations must also take care to ensure the psychological health and safety of line managers themselves is protected. Any training provision should empower managers to maintain their own wellbeing in addition to supporting their teams. Managers need sufficient time and resource to have conversations with their teams, backed by top management support.
WTW supports businesses in creating psychologically healthy and safe workplaces via a range of consultancy and training solutions. For further information please get in touch.