• Leah Norman

Mental Health Awareness Week - "Are you Okay?"

When was the last time you genuinely checked in on your team and how they’re doing?


Mental Health Awareness Week is upon us again and it seems timely to remind employers to consider the importance of mental well-being in our daily lives and to focus on supporting employee well-being, not just during this one week in September, but every week.


Endorsed by the World Mental Health Foundation, over 150 countries mark a Mental Health Awareness Week at some point in the year. For us it is an annual campaign that works to help Kiwis understand what boosts their wellbeing and improves mental health. It has been running it since 1993 (when not many people wanted to talk publicly about mental health) and we’re so proud of how much its grown. It has long been said people are the greatest asset of any organisation and poor mental health is one of the biggest threats to the health of that asset.


Asking ‘Are you okay?’ needs to become business as usual for individual employers and managers, and just as importantly, it needs to be done across organisations in a systematic way that provides a real-time line of sight to potential issues for the organisation in supporting the wellbeing of their teams.


In short, wellbeing is feeling good, functioning well and feeling connected.


Unfortunately, many organisations lack a mechanism to measure employee well-being, he said. This makes it even more difficult to manage the issue. Most employers want to do the right thing by employees experiencing mental distress but don’t know what to do.


It can be very difficult to see people in distress and easy to think you could make it worse. But many effective responses don't need extreme intervention.  In other words, sometimes small actions - such as just listening - make a big difference.


Here is an easy three-step approach to managing employee engagement and well-being:

  1. Find a system that makes it easier for HR to keep a finger on the pulse of the workplace at scale and in real time.

  2. Have a plan and commit a fixed amount of time to it. Make the time to regularly ensure you’re not missing anything important.

  3. Monitor and adapt. Planning is a cyclical process, not a one-off, and needs to be revisited as circumstances change.

Remember as an employer, you have a legal responsibility to manage risks to mental wellbeing and mental health just like you do any other health and safety risk. This includes making sure there’s no discrimination and taking steps to reduce work stress to prevent psychological harm.


You also have a legal responsibility to adapt the way you organise things at work to help your people who experience mental distress, such as by being more flexible with their working arrangements.


As the NZ Mental Health Foundation says, “when your mental wellbeing is strong and your workplace is supportive, you will feel more engaged in your mahi, be more productive and have higher morale and job satisfaction”.


Kia kaha, Aotearoa.


Disclaimer This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.