As we approach World Mental Health Day this 10th October, our newly appointed head of PR Louise McWatt considers the importance of workplace culture. In addition to her role at Pathway Homes, Louise is also a qualified Mental Health First Aider with MHFA England, and serves as a trustee for the Cheshire-based mental health charity Chapter.

I recently joined the Pathway Homes team as head of PR, and I’m enjoying getting to know my wonderful new colleagues who, it has to be said, are a pretty impressive bunch of people. And it’s a real pleasure to be back in the office and be part of a team dynamic after months on furlough and working from home.

The wellbeing of our team is something I have been reassured to see that my new workplace takes seriously. As well as proactively nurturing a positive team culture by celebrating birthdays, successes, and other milestones, the whole team is encouraged to be mindful of keeping a good work-life balance. That might be as simple as taking a proper fresh-air break for lunch, or as vital as being able to share the burden of incidental stresses and strains with a supportive professional team.

That all makes for a positive environment in the office and demonstrates a sincerely worthy commitment to employee wellbeing – both great objectives in themselves. But it also makes perfect business sense too: a recent survey by Deloitte estimates that poor mental health costs UK employers around £45 billion per year, with a sixth of UK workers experiencing a mental health problem at any one time.

The same Deloitte research also looked at how employers can tackle this problem, finding that it pays to support employees’ mental health. They found that on average, for every £1 spent on supporting their people’s mental health, employers get £5 back on their investment in reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover. As it turns out, supporting and nurturing a positive team culture is a winning approach for everyone.

That brings me back to this year’s World Mental Health Day, which falls on Sunday 10th October. It’s all too easy to issue feel-good platitudes around awareness days, but more of a challenge to effect real and meaningful change. So I’m delighted that the Pathway Homes team is using this year’s World Mental Health Day as a springboard to reaffirm our collective commitment to employee wellbeing.

We’ve started an open conversation about how we can continue to meaningfully support the mental health of our colleagues, and we’ve already started to create a programme of new initiatives including enrichment opportunities and events. So far, our programme includes an upcoming masterclass with one of the UK’s leading sports nutritionists, increasing employee engagement with regular team lunches, encouraging fresh air therapy with a weekly team walk, and encouraging continuing professional development (CPD) across the team.

Just as importantly, we will continue to promote an open culture and conversation around mental health, and ensure that we can provide appropriate mental health tools, support and signposting when it is called for. To help guide our efforts on all the above, we have recently signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment – a best-practice roadmap to achieve better mental health outcomes for employers and employees.

This World Mental Health Day, let’s remember that we all have mental health, and we all have it every day of the year. Let’s use this October’s awareness day as an opportunity to reassess how we can best support one another, to implement change where it is needed, and to commit to really valuing and improving our collective mental wellbeing for the long term.

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