Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

4 Ways Leaders Can Support Employee Wellbeing Immediately

Use these science-backed practices to nurture healthier and more productive employees.  

Agonising lockdowns laced with fears of illness, redundancy and furloughs. Social lives limited to Zoom screens and endless Slack notifications. Heavy workloads with distractions few and far between 

Anxious and frustrated, your employees have been through a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of adults (60%) reported in June 2020 that their mental health had become worse during lockdown, according to mental health charity Mind 

Therefore, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week takes on special significance.  

What is Mental Health Awareness Week?   

Mental Health Awareness Week is a welcome pause for business leaders to reflect on the severe negative effect the pandemic has had on their people’s mental health. 

Every May, Mental Health Awareness Week focuses on the mental health of everyone in the UK. This year’s event, taking place between May 10-16, focuses on the theme of nature.  

An apt choice, considering many workers have been camped in their homes, hunched over their work laptops for hours at the kitchen table.  

Studies have shown spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature, among the trees, birds and greenery, is associated with good health and wellbeing.  

Why is Mental Health Awareness Week Important?   

Mental illness impacts people and businesses significantly. In addition to losses in productivity, engagement, and performance, it is also responsible for 72 million working days being lost, costing £34.9 billion each year, according to the Centre for Mental Health. 

Mental Health Awareness Week is, therefore, a valuable opportunity for C-Suite and HR leaders to take stock and spread awareness of the need for better support.  

Some 9% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their line manager said they were disciplined, dismissed or demoted, according to a Business in the Community studyindicating why many people choose to hide their mental health issues, making them even worse.  

By attracting participation from organisations – large and small – across the UK, the week helps to break the murky stigma surrounding mental health through open online discussions, webinars and other events telling those struggling that they are not alone, that it’s ‘okay to not be okay’ and that there is help that they can receive. This is imperative because people who live with mental illness are more likely to develop other chronic medical conditions and die earlier than others.  

As UK society continues to gradually reopen this summer, employers can use the wealth of educational resources that appear during the week to begin engaging their own staff.  

How To Approach Supporting Employee Mental Health    

Behavioural science research suggests that employers should focus on giving their people greater autonomy over their work, as a practical step to deterring employee stress, burnout and promoting overall wellbeing.  

Numerous studies, including 2012 research by Rhokeun Park, found that individuals who had more job autonomy were significantly more likely to have better mental wellbeing and a stronger commitment to their employer.

Business leaders can achieve this by building a working environment that directly nurtures each individual’s three essential psychological needs:  

  • Competence – the confidence, skill and ability to make a meaningful impact on their work and environment 
  • Autonomy – having the space to control how, where and when they work, rather than be micro-managed 
  • Relatedness – feeling part of a caring and collaborative team.   


Four Proven Practical Steps To Support Mental Health Right Now 


  1. Allow for staff agency
    By focusing more on the outcomes rather than the process, managers can help improve employee wellbeing by giving them control over what they work on, when they do it, who they work with and how they choose to work.
  2. Encourage everyone tshow gratitude
    Did you know that sending a letter of gratitude to another person can increase your happiness for up to a month?Leaders can build gratitude into their culture by encouraging teams to regularly reflect on their achievements, showing appreciation to colleagues and volunteering to help others.
  3. Mental contrasting
    Centred on developing a more positive and actionable mindset at work, research shows mental contrasting boosts the likelihood of employees taking consistent action to solve problems.By carefully dissecting each project, team leaders can help their colleagues understand what positive outcome they want to achieve and the key blockers that stand in the way – backed by a plan of action.
  4. Belonging
    Building a shared identity and context among online and offline teams leads to greater organisational loyalty from employees.By promoting the organisation’s purpose, values, and beliefs, celebrating staff progress and creating opportunities for the team to connect socially, employees will likely feel greater closeness and camaraderie with the team.


Also, ensuring everyone has access to the same information through sharing tools, processes and priorities will improve the shared context, allowing people to better interpret and share their work experiences.  

For further advice on how to implement these scientifically proven wellbeing practices for your team, watch MindGym’s Mindset Reset webinar lead by our President Sebastian Bailey, PhD. and Wei-Li Chong, President of Americas. 

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