Once we understand the implications of mental ill-health for our organisation and therefore the benefits of managing it, as well as what specifically causes work-related stress that can ultimately lead to mental ill-health, then we can decide what to do about it.


Whilst there are a number of specific things that can be done to improve mental wellbeing in an organisation, including providing occupational health services, employee assistance programmes and one-to-one talk therapy etc, fundamentally managing mental health starts with culture. 

This is because whilst these solutions may help people deal with stress (both work-related and not), rarely are they concerned with eliminating the possible causes, which are often rooted in a culture that, whilst not always actively doing the opposite, does not actively support people wellbeing.


The word culture originates from the Latin word ‘cultura’, meaning “to cultivate” or “to grow” and is generally used to define patterns of human behaviour as well as the structures that give that behaviour significance. 

The word culture literally translates to the behaviour of a group” and is driven by the shared beliefs and values the people in the group hold dear and how that translates to what they say and do.  In the workplace, this is best understood as the distinction between an organisation’s ethos and their culture:


  ETHOS: “What we believe around here”

  CULTURE:  “How we behave around here”

An organisations ethos is the basis and the characteristic spirit of its culture, so in other words, its values – the things it considers to be important.

An organisations culture is how those values translate to the behaviours in the organisation, so in other words: what actually happens in reality. 

An organisations culture resides in the thoughts, actions and interactions of its people.



Often, culture in the context of the workplace, is considered to be something that is focused on the people aspect of organisation (as opposed to the business aspect) and as such, traditionally, it has been perceived to be a bit soft or fluffy.

So, the traditional view is that you have the organisation with its various business functions (marketing, sales, operations and finance) and then you have the culture which sits alongside it, and the two need to be aligned.

Progressive organisations see it quite differently.


Progressive organisations see culture as a key element of the business itself and not something that is separate to it and with which the business simply needs to be aligned.

In a progressive organisation, culture is the aspect of the business that drives all other aspects.  It drives the strategy, the marketing, the sales, the operations, the finance, and yes, it drives the people too.

So, you have the organisation as an entity and then you have the culture as the primary focus, because it sits like an umbrella over all functions of the business and drives everything that the business does (and doesn’t do).

And whilst it is about people (because people ultimately run the organisation, and culture drives how the people behave), it’s also about sales and marketing and how that is conducted in the business, it’s about the operations and how they are planned, systemised and controlled, it’s about the finances and how they are managed and it’s about the decisions that are made, how they are made and how they are both communicated and implemented.

Every organisation has a culture.  Whether it’s by design or not is another matter and organisations that choose to create theirs intentionally stand a far greater chance of achieving the outcomes they desire than those who don’t

To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work?

Find out by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz

This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.

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