How to Create a Mental Health Audit
Mental Health and COVID-19
Mental health has always been there but only in recent time has it come to be widely acknowledged and discussed. This has been propelled even further by the COVID-19 pandemic that placed a significant burden on all personal wellbeing. Stress and anxiety caused by a fatal disease and constantly changing social restrictions combined with months away from friends and family is the perfect recipe for a mental health crisis. However, one positive has emerged from all this: with more people finding their mental health under strain, more people are now openly discussing the issue and there are increased demands for mental health support.
The Rewards and Employee Benefits Association (REBA) conducted multiple studies throughout the course of the pandemic and found that 78% of employers have had requests for more mental health support in the workplace. However, they also found that there is still work to be done with only 13% of employees feeling comfortable enough to talk about mental health openly in the workplace. This raises a significant problem: how do employers provide more mental health support when their employees are reluctant to tell them what they need? Well, we at People Vision think we’ve found an answer: a Mental Health Audit. Composed of targeted questions designed to inform data-driven decisions, an audit can provide the information employees need whilst providing complete anonymity for their employees.
What is an Audit?
Before we go any further, we should probably establish what an audit actually is. In technical terms, it’s an analytical tool that explores a range of risks and employee needs. In our case, an audit would inquire about specific mental health concerns. It’s a very useful tool and an efficient way to get to know your employees and has a number of benefits:
Provides data that can point to the training and development that staff may need.
Maintains complete anonymity, putting your employees at ease.
Shows staff that you care and are interested in what they have to say.
An audit can provide data any topic which, once analysed and understood, can be used to inform improvement. They’re used by everyone from small businesses to the government. In fact, former government officials have suggested ‘clinical audit forms the backbone of clinical governance systems in most service providers today’.
Why is it Important to Audit Mental Health?
We’ll admit an audit can sound pretty boring but it’s often the most boring things that are the most important. As we highlighted earlier, employees want their employers to do more when it comes to mental health. An audit is the first step. It shows that you’re willing to listen and that you care. These qualities have never been so important. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen millions made redundant or furloughed and as a result, job uncertainty and mistrust in employers is as high as ever. Showing employees you care can help put these fears at rest. Not only will a mental health audit reduce stress and anxiety, it will also result in improved levels of employee engagement and morale. This, in turn, can boost productivity and be beneficial for businesses as a whole. After, all a happy employee is a productive employee. Furthermore, a mental health audit will enable employers to fulfil a widespread desire for more mental health support by informing future internal wellness initiatives that target the specific needs of your employees. For those of you with one eye on your profit margins, an audit is cost-effective and efficient, so you have nothing to lose: why not give it a go?
What should a Mental Health Audit Contain?
So, you’re giving it a go – now what? What should a mental health audit look like? What should it contain? First, it’s important to establish what an audit isn’t and what it shouldn’t be used for. It is NOT a way to capture personal evidence of employees’ mental health on behalf of employer and it is NOT a criticism of any one individual, be it employer or employee. Either of these would be a complete misuse of a mental health audit and unethical, which People Vision heavily oppose. Enough of the negative and let’s get to what areas you should look at when putting together a mental health audit:
Do you really need an audit?
They are typically more suited for larger organisation rather than smaller businesses who could conduct have these conversations in team meetings.
What is the goal of the audit?
It’s important to identify the aims of the audit as these will inevitably inform the questions you ask and the data you try to attain.
Impact of mental health on physical (e.g. inflammation due to increased cortisol from poor mental health)
Understanding stress in the workplace (i.e. triggers/causes).
Ensure its delivered to a diverse audience wide set of data.
It’s important to bear in mind LGBTQ and BAME groups are often less likely to discuss mental health for fear of being marginalised.
Involve a mental health first aider as they will know the right questions and language to use to not only identify the data you need but also avoid offending anyone.
It’s worth noting that having a mental health first aider on staff is soon to be mandated by law.
If you don’t have one on your workforce, then get in touch and People Vision will be only too happy to provide one.
Be transparent with participants about what you intend to do with the result of the audit.
What Questions Should You be Asking?
The questions in a mental health audit will be different in every audit as they will be informed by a wide variety of factors. These include the size of the business (i.e. conglomerate vs. small business), the working environment (i.e. formal vs informal) and, of course, the aims of the audit. However, there are two types of questions that are likely to be included regardless of these factors: scales questions and probing questions. Scale questions are fairly self-explanatory. A question is asked with options provided on a scale and participants select the one that applies to them. For example:
How concerned are you about returning to the workplace?
In contrast, probing questions are looking for one clear answer that is entirely up to the participants. These types of questions are often the most effective when looking for specific and detailed responses as they are designed to deepen knowledge and understanding for both asker and responder. (Many examples are included at the end of this article so feel free to scroll down and have a look.) However, when structuring these questions, there are certain factors that should be taken into consideration:
Bear in mind what support your business can provide, so you don’t end up with a situation you’re not equipped to handle.
Remember it’s not your responsibility to fix an employee’s mental health problems, just listen, support and guide them to those who can.
Involve a mental health first aider to ensure you avoid this or deal with any unforeseen outcomes.
Focus on the workplace and how your employees feel it can be improved with regards to mental health.
Always keep your specific aims and goals in mind and ensure your questions relate to them.
Examples of Probing Questions
What sort of impact do you think this will have?
What would need to change in order for you to accomplish this?
Do you feel that that is right?
When have you done something like this before?
What does this remind you of?
How did you come to this conclusion?
What is your prediction?
What was your intention?
How do you know this to be true?
What are this situation’s pros and cons?
What is the connection between these two things?
Is this problem unique to this organization?
What are the long-term effects?
What are the intangible effects?
What should you ask yourself to further your understanding?
What is your biggest fear regarding this?
What do you think is the best-case scenario?
What do you think is at the root of the problem?
What would we do if the opposite were true?