A healthy work environment

Creating and maintaining a healthy working environment benefits employees at all levels.

The World Health Organisation defines healthy, safe and resilient workplaces as places where all people can perform their jobs:

  • without getting sick or injured because of their work,

  • with opportunities to enhance their physical and mental health and social wellbeing

  • while preserving harmony with nature and being protected in case of disaster in the community.

Supporting good mental health at work is crucial in an employer's Health and Safety duties. Good employers care about their staff's wellbeing, too.

What can you do as an employer or learning provider?

There are many areas of mental health that employers can't control. But you can help ensure that the workplace does not create or worsen someone’s mental health difficulties. That helps to make a culture of positive mental wellbeing amongst employees.

There are 5 main steps to help create a healthy work environment.

1. Conditions

Promote healthy working conditions and work-life balance for your staff. Make it the norm that people find balance between work and non-work time. Give clear messages about the importance of downtime and rest away from work.

This is only effective if people don't feel overwhelmed by work or that they have to work long hours. Here are some ways to do this.

  • Ensure all staff are clear on roles and responsibilities.

  • Ensure staff have clear priorities and can speak up if they're concerned about their workload.

  • Create clear plans that allow them to complete work in manageable ways. This is important for apprentices who have to balance work and studying for a qualification.

  • Have regular discussions about work-life balance and how people experience stress at work.

2. Culture

There's more openness in society about mental health difficulties. But many people still find it hard to acknowledge that they're struggling. As an employer you can create a culture where discussing mental wellbeing is normal. Show that mental health will be supported openly and compassionately in the following ways:

  • Discuss the importance of mental wellbeing regularly in in-house communications. Include practical strategies for supporting wellbeing.

  • Encourage managers to incorporate discussions about workload and stress into meetings. Have clear actions flowing from these to improve arising issues.

  • Communicate that mental health difficulties will be supported as compassionately as physical health difficulties.

  • Educate managers about mental health conditions and signs to look out for.

  • Support managers to have caring conversations where they show concern about someone’s wellbeing.

3. Employee Assistance

Providing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is a great way to add a layer of quick and good-quality support to employees. Most EAPs allow employees to get support, such as counselling, quickly and confidentially. It's a great way to show your willingness to support staff and contribute to the message of wellbeing.

4. Access to external support 

As an employer you can help, but you can’t do everything if someone is struggling with their mental health.

It's important that people can access other support without feeling it'll cause problems at work. This could mean arranging work or study to let people attend GP or counselling appointments.

5. Challenging stigma 

Attitudes to mental health have improved dramatically in recent years. But some attitudes can be judgemental or unkind about mental health difficulties.

Workplace cultures can develop where mental health issues are mocked or judged. It's sometimes viewed as harmless jokes or banter. But this can strongly contribute to people not feeling able to ask for help and feeling worse.

Senior leaders should communicate that mental health difficulties will be treated compassionately. Make it clear that judgemental, derogatory language or behaviours about mental health are not tolerated.

Watch a short video about the impact of stigma in the workplace on the See Me Scotland website

Read our useful guides

In partnership with mental health charity Penumbra we've compiled 4 comprehensive guides to accompany this web resource.

These 2 Employer Guides will help you to support your apprentices' mental health at work. The 2 Apprentice Guides can be found in our Mental Health resource for apprentices.

Explore the rest of our Mental Health resource

What are mental health difficulties?

What we mean by mental health difficulties and how you can help apprentices at work.

Supporting employees around suicide

It's important to know how to support employees at risk of suicide. Find information and links here.

Supporting employees who self-harm

Find out how to support staff who are, or may be, self-harming.

Your duties as an employer

Advice about your duties in supporting the mental health of your apprentices and other employees.

Go to start of resource

You'll find links to the other parts of the resource as well as a list of mental health support organisations.

Further support

Support for you - apprenticeships 2 432 x 288

We are grateful to mental health charity Penumbra for providing advice and information on mental health for this resource. If any of your apprentices or other employees need support, you should encourage them to contact a GP or professional mental-health support organisation. Find support organisations for mental health

Mental Health resource for apprentices

We've also pulled together a companion resource for apprentices. This is a good first place to guide people to if you're worried about their mental health.

View Mental Health at Work - a resource for apprentices