LGBT+ History Month: How to Take Care of Your LGBT+ Employees’ Mental Health and Wellbeing
The 1st of February marks the beginning of a new month – the second in a brand-new year. Enthusiastic New Year’s resolutions are fresh, and hopefully, you’re still raring to go with your new goals in sight.
However, February is also a significant month in its relevance to LGBT+ communities. This is because the 1st of February ushers in the start of LGBT+ History Month, an annual celebration of the history, uniqueness, lives, and lived experiences of the LGBT+ community. This month-long observance highlights the achievements of LGBT+ communities, promoting equality, diversity, and inclusivity while offering a platform to increase visibility and campaign for better awareness of LGBT+ rights and improved welfare for queer individuals.
LGBT+ Employees and Your Company
LGBT+ History Month is an extremely important time to reaffirm your commitment to supporting LGBT+ employees’ well-being in your workplace. For example, the LGBT+ community often requires unique assistance in accessing mental health care, such as finding an LGBT+ therapist who can offer support and show understanding of their identity, needs, and experiences. Unfortunately, evidence reveals a distinct lack of support for LGBT+ employees in the UK. For example, a 2022 TUC poll uncovered that 1 in 5 workplaces did not have any policies in place to support their LGBT+ staff.
Workplace discrimination remains a pressing issue beyond the absence of support and visibility. Research shows that 40% of LGB+ workers and 55% of trans workers have experienced some workplace conflict, compared to just 29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees. The LGBT+ community, therefore, often faces a larger and more nuanced multitude of challenges in the workplace and, subsequently, is more likely to experience mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and burnout.
As leaders and employers, it is up to you to shape a safe workplace culture grounded in celebrating, educating, and supporting LGBT+ mental health and wellbeing. LGBT+ History Month is thus the perfect opportunity to celebrate and learn more about the history and experiences of the queer community, so you can do everything in your power to create an inclusive, affirming, and supportive workplace environment for all your staff, no matter their gender or sexual identity.
Offering supportive measures will not only help your LGBT+ staff feel valued and welcome, but it will also support them to feel comfortable in being their authentic selves inside your work environment. Inclusive workplaces are key for allowing LGBT+ employees to embrace their identity, which can help improve mental (and thus physical) well-being, as well as performance and productivity levels.
So, as we settle into 2024, there is no better place to start changing the groundwork of inclusivity in your workplace! Here are some strategies to consider implementing, which will help you cultivate a safer and more comfortable daily working experience for your LGBT+ employees.
How to Best Support LGBT+ Employees’ Wellbeing in the Workplace
1. Big journeys begin with small steps!
Honing a workplace environment rooted in inclusion and equality can be started with small, straightforward gestures. For example, displaying Pride flags, having conversations about LGBT+ History Month, organising events/talks to increase awareness of the experiences of LGBT+ people and improve education and inclusion, and spreading awareness on company social media pages. These small actions can all send a welcoming message to your LGBT+ employees and remind them that you support and accept them and are glad they’re a part of your company.
Inclusion starts with being mindful and sensitive. The LGBT+ community represents a diverse range of gender identities and sexualities – one simple way to recognise this is to encourage your staff to start using more inclusive and neutral everyday language.
If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive language in the workplace, Handshake offers excellent guides that comprehensively explore inclusivity, with both diversity and intersectionality in mind.
Remember, you can start implementing these small gestures today. However, it is also essential to outline these supportive strategies to your whole team so that everyone understands and is on board with the process.
2. Exchange Pronouns!
Declaring your pronouns is also a small and simple way to create a workplace culture of inclusivity and awareness. As employers, you could encourage staff to incorporate their preferred pronouns into their email signatures and LinkedIn profiles, as well as share pronouns in the recruitment stages.
By exchanging pronouns, you will help LGBT+ staff trust that they can share their own pronouns safely without feeling like they’re singling themselves out or attracting undesired attention for doing so. Communicating this shows your LGBT+ staff that your workplace is considerate and accepting of the multifaceted expression of gender identity. This small yet necessary gesture normalises the exchange of pronouns by removing stigma, ultimately reducing the anxiety of a public ‘coming out’ for many.
3. Resources, Resources, and More Resources!
If you’re not sure where to start with implementing supportive strategies, mental health resources can be invaluable. There are so many resources out there to choose from to help you support your LGBT+ staff’s wellbeing, covering everything from inclusivity in the workplace to LGBT+ intersectionality and mental health needs. Organisations like Stonewall and The Trevor Project have a multitude of resources which focus primarily on how to provide LGBTQ+ communities with support.
As leaders, it is crucial to not only educate yourself but also to provide mental health resources for other employees. By researching and providing these resources, your staff will understand how everyone can proactively support mental health at work, and how that support should extend to the intersections of the LGBT+ community. This will help your LGBT+ staff feel valued and included, thus improving their overall wellbeing.
Meanwhile, at Thrive4Life, we offer a flexible, diverse range of mental health and wellbeing resources which you can help you support your team’s emotional wellbeing. These include:
If you’re feeling lost on implementing new mental health strategies, Thrive4Life’s team of experienced professionals can help identify, solve, and evaluate any health and well-being needs you have in the workplace.
Are you struggling to find effective, comprehensive resources for your team? At Thrive4Life, we provide customised training courses and mental health workshops to help you meet your goals.
Thrive4Life offers MHFA-England certified training in which designated team members can gain a practical and comprehensive understanding of how to provide mental health support for their colleagues.
4. Provide Solid Internal Support
You must ensure you can provide LGBT+ staff with a solid internal support system. In other words, this means having a valued and trusted system in place which your LGBT+ staff can seek out if any troubles arise. This could involve establishing a specific contact person in the HR team who is either a member of the LGBT+ community or an ally who is highly educated in the experiences and needs of queer individuals, so they can offer guidance and answer questions to any employees.
You could also consider setting up an anonymous filing system, which employees can use to safely file a report in case of any homophobic or transphobic discrimination. This will increase levels of trust between the company and queer employees, improving LGBT+ individuals’ ability to be their authentic selves at work.
5. Visibility Matters
Ensuring representation within your company is crucial for visibility and inclusivity. Having staff members representing LGBT+ interests will usher in understanding and trust, and it will also provide the community with a voice within the workplace, improving mental and emotional well-being.
Beyond representation, as employers, you can improve visibility, awareness, and education by discussing LGBT+ policies, highlighting events, and actively engaging in activities that promote diversity, equality, and inclusion. By embracing representation, you will create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued, thus preventing feelings of ‘otherness’ and isolation among LGBT+ staff.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Have Conversations
Set up a network or organise group meetings where LGBT+ employees can openly share their experiences or any issues they might be facing with their mental health. Facilitating these conversations not only helps destigmatise mental health but also amplifies the voices of the LGBT+ community, empowering others to tell their stories.
For LGBT+ staff, this type of action shows that your company values their voices. It also allows your company to gain valuable insights into the experiences of individuals belonging to this community and use these learnings to cultivate an even more supportive and understanding work environment that answers to their needs.
Utilise LGBT+ History Month to educate and guide your company in fostering a more inclusive and empowering environment for LGBT+ employees, enhancing their well-being. Establishing a robust support system will enable LGBT+ staff to thrive, express their authentic selves, and realize their full potential in the workplace. As you cultivate a workplace with a more mindful approach to inclusivity, awareness, and acceptance, you’ll not only reinforce your company’s culture but also instil a sense of belonging in your LGBT+ staff, simultaneously enhancing their trust, morale, and well-being.
Importantly, recognise that efforts to improve the well-being of LGBT+ employees should extend beyond one month. While February is a pivotal time to acknowledge, celebrate, and reflect on LGBT+ history, your commitment to the mental well-being of queer employees should be reaffirmed every day.
For more information on how to offer support for your LGBT+ staff, check out the links below:
1. “Let’s Unite for Thriving Mental Health this Pride Month”, Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre, www.lloydswellbeingcentre.co.uk/blog/lets-unite-for-thriving-mental-health-this-pride-month/
2. “LGBTQI+ Inclusivity in Your Organisation”, Mental Health at Work, www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/lgbtqi-inclusivity-in-your-organisation/
3. “Why Workplace Mental Health Policies Must Take LGBTQ+ Experiences Into Account”, Forbes, www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2019/06/17/why-workplace-mental-health-policies-must-take-lgbtq-experiences-into-account/?sh=3bc7eca5c152
4. “Supporting LGBT Mental Health at Work”, Health Assured, www.healthassured.org/blog/supporting-lgbt-mental-health-at-work/
5. “Build a Workplace that Works for LGBTQ+ People”, Stonewall, www.stonewall.org.uk/inclusive-workplaces