How can you create a mentally healthy culture at work

The mental health conversation has been gaining traction at work but it can feel confusing to even know what this means in the workplace or what our responsibility is as small business owners and entrepreneurs

How can you create a mentally healthy culture at work

Firstly, many people immediately think that mental health at work is about resources and benefits to help people in crisis – well, I’m a small business owner and we don’t have any standard benefits or resources as they’re simply not affordable or necessary at this stage. What we spend a lot of attention on is prevention. 

We have a shared language for mental health at work, a psychologically safe culture and one which understands that high performance is sustained through taking responsibility for investing in ourselves individually while also collectively supporting each other through listening and accountability.  I have also occasionally paid for a block of counselling sessions for an employee so I will offer ad-hoc support but it’s specific to the situation and done in conversation with the employee about what they think they would like to try or what would help them take personal responsibility for their own mental health. 

So how do we think about prevention? Well, we think about culture – about the day to day interactions and how we manage the normal stresses of life*, how we build community and trust and how we support each other to reach our potential. 


Firstly, it’s useful to learn about performance, mental health and how to invest in ourselves in a world of change and distraction. When I read a book on burnout I sent a copy out to my team, we all read it and then discussed what we learned. There are a million ways to learn together and what’s great is the CEO or leader can openly be leading too and simply ask questions such as – how do we think this affects our team? Is there anything I’m missing that would help us perform in a way that brings us joy and fulfillment? 

Lead by example 

The most powerful culture-setter is leading by example. This doesn’t mean being perfect but it does mean showing the culture through your behaviours and living the values you’ve set as a company including openly discussing when you get it wrong.  This starts with the person at the top but ideally this gives others permission to do the same. Helping people connect the dots between how you invest in yourself (i.e. gym, meditation, reflection time etc) to your performance, focus and mental health is a great way to verbalise the culture and give tangible ways for team members to do the same. 

Build trust 

We build trust in tiny ways each day. We think it’s the big things like how we handle a merger, a vision change etc but really these are the ways where that trust is tested.  Actual trust is built brick by brick through your interactions every day, this includes:  

  • How you emotionally regulate and take responsibility for your mental health
  • How you respond to challenges and call out inappropriate behaviour 
  • How you praise individuals and celebrate wins 
  • Coaching rather than telling 
  • Being vulnerable, opening up about failure and modelling how to learn from experiences
  • Showing genuine interest in the whole person not just the work output 
  • Being fair when delivering bad news, communicating with emotion 

These and many more are the small ways we build trust. 

Remember that culture is not something that one course or policy can create or solve. 

Culture is a moving organism that will evolve alongside new hires, people leaving, leadership change, adapting to a changing world etc. That’s ok. It’s about how we move alongside, staying adaptable to new information and taking the time inside the cult-of-busy to listen, reflect and nurture the organism that will adapt your business for the future. 


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