Home » Employee Wellbeing » Mental wellbeing: ways to focus on the future in uncertain times

Katie Harris

People Operations Director, HEAnet

Craig Nixon

Systems Administrator and Chair of Employee Voice Group, HEAnet

Amid a surge in mental health challenges, Irish employers must prioritise workplace mental wellbeing in 2024. Due to recent global events, our resilience has been tested, and human connection disrupted.

According to Mental Health Ireland, 90% of employers have noticed an increase in mental health challenges in the workplace since the pandemic. Reports suggest these issues relate to unsustainable workloads, social isolation, interpersonal difficulties and/or a growing disconnect in the employee-leadership relationship.

In recent years, efforts to destigmatise mental health challenges and equip colleagues for self-management have been substantial. “We are now seeing a move towards sustainable workloads, equality and employee voice,” says Katie Harris, People Operations Director at HEAnet, Ireland’s National Education and Research Network.

Policies, programmes and initiatives for wellbeing

People-centric policies and practices, trained mental health first aiders, Employee Assistance Programmes, mental health awareness sessions and People Operations’ open door policy — individually or collectively — have proven valuable resources to our HEAnet and EduCampus colleagues during trying times.

From these foundational supports, we are building on valuing voice, sustainable work and protecting colleagues’ mental health. So, how can we enact meaningful change to support their mental wellbeing?

Supporting colleagues’ mental health requires a
situational, personalised approach.

Valuing the voice of each employee

HEAnet’s Employee Voice Group plays a vital role in supporting mental wellbeing through fostering cultural connectedness and driving connection with intention in a hybrid working environment. The Group is well positioned to continue building a sense of belonging, support culture and engagement initiatives and bring employee voice to the fore. 

The Employee Voice Group partners closely with several groups internally, including HEAnet and EduCampus’s EDI Council, to explore engagement feedback, understand employee experiences and spot opportunities for early and proactive intervention.

Engaging in sustainable work

Leveraging diverse data and feedback to anticipate pressure points and focusing on skillsets and workforce agility into 2024 will enhance our ability to proactively mobilise skills where they are needed — when they are needed. Maintaining a psychologically safe environment where colleagues feel empowered and able to ask for support and where managers feel well-equipped to provide that support will be key to managing workloads sustainably.

Navigating mental health challenges

Policies and practices support a comprehensive wellbeing proposition. However, sensitively supporting colleagues’ mental health requires a situational, personalised approach. In 2024, this will involve partnering with external resources to conduct needs assessments, develop roadmaps and support packs and provide training and coaching at all levels of the business.

Supporting mental wellbeing at work is truly a never-ending journey. As wider workforce trends emerge, we remain committed and responsive in this space to ensure the ongoing wellbeing and engagement of our people. 

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