Top Ten Tips for... Supporting Mental Wellbeing at Work
Working can be great for our mental health for many reasons – it gives us a sense of purpose and pride, it can lead to new opportunities and friendships and when it’s going well it can boost our confidence. A fulfilling work life can also provide a steady and reliable income, which means we can do the things we love.
But according to mental health charity Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. The Mental Health Foundation also says that anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8 per cent of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
The startling statistics show that we must do all we can to ensure the mental wellbeing of our colleagues is paramount and with Mental Health Awareness Week coming up in May (13-19) it’s the perfect time to make positive changes in your workplace.
Here are our Top 10 Tips for improving mental wellbeing:
1. Make a good business case
With targets to reach and profits to make, senior leaders in your organisation may need some convincing that investing time and money in supporting your workforce with their mental health should be a priority. You may need to have a strong business case ready to showcase the impact poor mental health can have on your business. You will need facts, figures and case studies (anonymised if necessary) to back up your case.
2. Communicate your commitment to supporting mental health
Mental health can feel difficult to talk about, particularly at work where it is assumed you need to be on top of your game. But providing a compassionate, open culture where people feel able to say ‘I need some help,’ without the fear of embarrassment or a detrimental impact on their career, is so important. For example, you could appoint Mental Health Champions at work so people have someone to turn to if needed.
3. Think about what you want to achieve
Improving mental health in the workplace is no different to any other project and having some clear goals in mind will help steer you in the right direction. Consider how you evaluate what you currently offer to employees to help them with any mental health issues they have. Then perhaps go on to clearly record how you want it to change and what you will do to make those positive changes effectively.
4. Encourage a good work/life balance
We spend most of our lives at work and balancing our busy work-life with families, hobbies and holidays can be stressful. Many of us can feel torn between work and
home, particularly now technology means we’re more easily contactable than ever before. We expect our employees to be focused and productive while at work but encouraging them to get their work-life balance right will protect them from potentially burning out.
5. Keep an eye out for warning signs
No one will ever experience a mental health issue in the same way and the warning signs that someone may need help will differ too. This could be a change in their behaviour, such as being late for work, a lack of concentration or enthusiasm, a dip in performance standards or an increase in absenteeism. Being aware of and looking out for signs like these allows employers to sensitively address a situation and offer the most appropriate support to rebalance the individual’s health and wellbeing.
6. Offer mental health awareness training
Offering mental health awareness training will enable your managers to help the people around them. Investing in training, whether delivered internally or from mental health experts, will help them to spot the early signs of a mental health condition. Early access to help and support may make all the difference in helping your colleagues’ recovery. It’s also important to follow up on any training to ensure everyone has understood the main principles.
7. Offer ways to keep fit and healthy
Good employers should encourage and inspire their employees to work hard but to relax and protect their mental health too. We know that regular exercise also leads to better mental health, so why not support initiatives which encourage physical activities, such as a lunch time walking group or after work group fitness classes?
8. Encourage people to talk about how they feel
The old saying is that a problem shared is a problem halved. People often worry they will be stigmatised or misunderstood, that their employer may think they’re not good at their job or there may be some other consequences, such as being overlooked for promotion. Your colleagues should feel they can raise any concerns they have about their health. If you have a Health and Wellbeing Team, Mental Health Champions or experts in your Employee Relations teams – then promote how to get in touch with them amongst your workforce.
9. Help colleagues connect
Friends really do help make the word go around and this is true in our professional lives as well as at home. Building meaningful relationships at work means there are people on hand who care and can spot the signs of depression, anxiety and stress and perhaps provide a much-needed moral boost or advice. Making connections could be as simple as arranging a face-to-face meeting instead of sending an email, arranging a team away-day, offering to mentor new colleagues or speaking to someone new at work.
10. Think about mindfulness
Mindfulness is a technique which can help you manage your mental health. It promotes calmness and happiness. It involves giving your full attention to how you feel and what is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness is something that anyone can learn, and you don’t need to have any spiritual or religious beliefs.
Taking time out at work to think about how you’re feeling can help you feel calmer and more able to handle negativity and stress. It can also help you manage chronic, physical conditions which may be affecting your concentration and ability to cope.
How does your organisation deal with mental wellbeing in the workplace?
Julie Gordon is the Managing Director of cHRysos HR Solutions, a Doncaster based HR training and consultancy company providing CIPD and CMI accredited qualifications nationwide, as well as Apprenticeships and HR Consultancy to SMEs. For more information about how cHRysos HR can help you return to study and achieve further qualifications, email email@example.com or call +44 (0)1302 802128.