How are global businesses addressing mental health?

In the current “do more with less” economic climate, lean workforces, constant scrutiny on ROI and demand for high performance, it is increasingly clear that working life is a breeding ground for mental health issues. So how are organisations across the world tackling the problem?

Whether it is concierge services, massages, free gym memberships, yoga lunch breaks, stop smoking plans or on-site stress counsellors, there is an endless array of options that can have a positive effect and need not cost a business a lot to promote positive mental health at work.

In Europe, the HR Leadership Forum have created an alliance of businesses including brands such as Barclays, Deutsche Post DHL and Ogilvy & Mather, to collectively tackle mental health issues in their workplaces.

DPDHL launched a foundation principle to their mental health awareness programme – “Respect and Results” – a cultural philosophy that means they are “…always striving for good results, but in ways that show respect for the individual.”

“DPDHL believes you can promote workforce wellbeing on four levels, all of which are influenced by health management:

• Health-promoting workplace design – favourable workplace set-up, working conditions, working hours and working atmosphere.

• Qualification/development of decision-making competence – foster capability to take responsibility and improve stress resilience.

• Individual health promotion – support a healthy lifestyle.

• Respectful company culture and social interaction – open, transparent communication; culture of respectful feedback; creation of social networks; and sympathetic interaction.”

Barclays have approached proactive support of mental health in the workplace with their “This is Me” campaign. The programme has an overarching principal that recognises manageable mental health at work – it is underpinned with an accessible online portal that provides resources to all staff such as advice from external specialists, a community group of staff and shared wellness tools. Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Mark McLane says the programme “empowers colleagues to support each other on depression and other mental health issues”.

Ogilvy & Mather incorporates training and development around mental health to management as part of their strategy. Leaders and managers are provided coaching on how to understand their resilience levels, building personal strength and being aware of weaker points. Supported by an assessment tool “i-Resilience” that utilises this data to produce action plans for each individual. They have also introduced a “Wellbeing Forum” providing community style support across the organisation.

Female on beach with laptop

In the US, Google have adopted an ever-creative idea of mindfulness. Meditation at work? Sounds impossible, right! Not according to Chade-Meng Tan – Google’s “happiness engineer”. One of Google’s early employees, Tan created a course that taught other colleagues mindfulness skills in order to promote a happier workforce. The 3 step programme includes calming the mind through meditation in the office, logging moments of joy and wishing other people to be happy.

Similarly, PWC have developed a comprehensive strategy to manage stress in the workplace. A lot is centred on creating a culture of work-life balance, for example:


• Offering ‘Flextime’ – working 7 day 10 hour days then having 7 days off.

• ‘Being there’ time – an extra 24 hours on top of annual leave.

• Stress Reduction training – a two-hour elective stress survival training course to increase self-awareness and coping strategies.

• ‘Serenity Rooms’ – for staff to break away from busy open plan environments and reset.

ColourtationAustralian giants ANZ, Bupa and Wesfarmers embrace the “Colourtation” tool – providing their employees with colouring books to de-stress. Stan Rodski, a Melbourne based neuropsychologist created Colourtation: a colouring book for adults. The theory? “A simple act of colouring can alter the brain’s behaviour and help participants achieve calm and balance”. Now that’s my kind of relaxation!

So, is it time for a mental health check in your business?