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Civil Service

Supporting good mental health in the workplace

Head shot of Rupert McNeil
Rupert McNeil, Civil Service Chief People Officer

Mental Health Awareness Week is now drawing to a close. I’ve been delighted to hear about the excellent departmental activities that have been taking place this week.

Examples include the Crown Prosecution Service hosting “mindfulness” lunch and learn sessions; and HMRC signposting practical sources of mental health support and drop-in mental health cafés. I know that other departments have organised mental health awareness campaigns and a number of colleagues have been generous in sharing their personal experiences and insights.

A personal and business issue

I want to thank everyone for getting involved in raising awareness of this important issue. Mental health is just as important as physical health. The only difference is that it cannot always be seen. 34% of Civil Service long-term sickness absence is attributable to mental health problems. So this is not just a personal issue for the staff affected, but also a business issue for all departments.

Going forward, we can all take small steps to create a more open and supportive working environment. If you go on your intranet site, you should find links to Occupational Health and to the website run by your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider.

Occupational Health is there to provide advice to managers and employees to help support people back to work from sick leave. Anyone can access the EAP website for advice on a wide range of topics, such as divorce and bereavement, access to counselling, and often other help, including online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Positive behaviours

Managers have a crucial role in supporting the well-being of their staff, and I encourage you to consider how best to use HR policies, such as flexible working, to support employees and promote engagement. We should all role-model positive behaviours and be mindful of our own well-being and work/life balance.

Civil Service Learning has some great learning to help us understand key issues. Why not log on and have a look at the learning on Mental health awareness and Wellbeing, resilience and stress?

Workplace tips

Finally, I’d like to share some short practical tips with you on how to maintain your own mental well-being in the workplace:

  • speak to someone you feel comfortable with, whenever you have any concerns
  • talk to your manager as early as possible if your mental health is being affected by something in the workplace
  • learn how departmental support such as Employee Assistance Programmes can help
  • identify and seek out the support available both in the workplace and outside.

Let’s make mental health awareness part of our approach to work and our wider lives during every week in 2016. In the last People Survey, the results showed 65% of Civil Service staff were satisfied with their lives. Let’s try and increase those numbers in the year ahead.

Follow Rupert McNeil on Twitter: @CivilServiceCPO

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  1. Comment by Carol posted on

    How very true , absolutely no support for people with mental health issues. A disgrace in this day and age. Something needs to be done ASAP.

  2. Comment by jo roberts posted on

    It is a shame that the department do not support people who are off sick with mental health problems, preferring instead to try to dismiss them if their absence is for more than 4 weeks or at the very least give them a warning if it is for at least 7 days?

  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Rupert, Thank you for your blog and for promoting this very important issue. As a member of the FCO Wellbeing Network, I was extremely encouraged with the level of engagement from colleagues in respect of the various events / activities that we hosted during the week. These ranged from a walk through St James Park with our PUS Sir Simon McDonald to a Singing and Mindfulness FCO Choir Workshop hosted by the FCO Choir Master Alex Hilton. I would very much agree with you that moving forward, it is important that both Line Managers and Colleagues seek to have those regular conversations as a means of maintaining Wellbeing in the Workplace.

  4. Comment by Lol posted on

    with performance management and a culture of not listening it is not surprising that civil servants have mental health issues