One of our experienced coaches, Jo Reeves, explores how mental health has become a more salient issue in the workplace and how organisations are responding to this. In an article first seen in People Management, Jo breaks down how coaching can be an effective tool to manage this and the benefits that coaching in the workplace can have on both employers and employees.
According to the charity, Mind, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. As a result, it has become increasingly important that employers ensure the correct policies and resources are in place to support their staff.
Since the pandemic and the introduction of hybrid working, employers have been given a fresh insight into the personal lives of their employees. Working from home has somewhat blurred the lines between personal and professional life and as a result, workers are now bringing the whole person to work.
The United Nations found that not only did the pandemic increase the prevalence of mental health issues, but it also acted as a catalyst to increase accessibility to crucial support and services for those affected.
We’ve seen that organisations are now introducing a range of policies to respond to this change. For example, employers have become more accepting of mental health work absences. Many also encourage employees to work flexibly, incorporating time away from screens into the workday.
Drop-in sessions for topics such as menopause, menstruation, and stress as well as yoga classes, meditation and even bringing your pet to work, are all interventions some workplaces have adopted.
But coaching is also something that organisations are increasingly using to help employees navigate the workplace.
It’s incredibly important to emphasise that coaching is not a replacement for therapy. Coaching is not and never should be used to treat anyone who needs clinical support for a mental health condition or illness.
But what coaching can offer, is a safe space. A space for listening, for sharing and for letting go. Working with a coach can help an individual work through topics such as resilience, coping with stress and change, confidence and esteem – all of which will impact mental health positively.
Talent retention is also key now, and topics such as mental health, flexibility, and family-friendly policies are crucial for keeping internal talent and attracting new talent. Having a coaching culture within an organisation says to any potential applicant or colleague, ‘you matter’.
Coaching can have various positive impacts on both an employer and employee and by embedding it into workplace culture, organisations can expect to create happier and more secure workers.
Coaching encourages a culture of psychological safety in organisations and helps people become self-reliant and build better relationships with their colleagues.
When employees feel psychologically safe, they feel included, able to challenge decisions they don’t agree with without fear of backlash and allows them to think more critically in the workplace.
This will ultimately create more engaged, confident and happier and all-round better workers.
Coaching within organisations and active efforts to embed such a culture is on the rise, which is reflected in an increased accessibility to coaching.
According to the Institute for Employment Studies, it’s expected that the use of coaching as a whole-workforce development tool will increase, with more of the staff population being able to access it than ever before.
Previously coaching had been reserved for explicitly senior leaders and board members. This can take a variety of forms including one-to-one coaching or group coaching sessions, but does often manifest as group coaching, where staff can gain personal insight and development with one another, which can positively impact an organisation.
Accessing coaching to individuals can be a large investment, however, opting for a group coaching programme can be significantly cheaper than one-to-one coaching, while still providing wide-ranging impacts.
Members of the group will all bring their unique goals to the programme, and experience coaching by being coached and by coaching one another – all led by an experienced group coach. For example, family life group coaching programmes or self-belief and confidence programmes.
In turn, they begin to practice coaching skills, which they can then bring back into the organisation to share with colleagues on a wider scale.
Should leaders want to build their knowledge and coaching skills, there are a number of accredited coaching programmes employers can invest in, including our Leader as Coach programme, which is aimed at leaders or managers who are ready to take their leadership to the next level. The course is ideal for leaders who want to empower and build stronger and more productive relationships with their teams.
 McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.