World Mental health day is the perfect excuse for any and all businesses, organisations groups and individuals to speak openly about mental health, to learn how they can help, what needs to change and how they can recognise both symptoms and causes in our everyday lives.
As you know we live by Learn Engage Discover. Learning about topics which we don’t know about or discovering more about topics we think we understand is one key way in which we can grow and develop.
Weekly, on average in the UK we spend 37.2 hours at work per week, that’s only one hour less than 20 years ago (38.3 hours in 1999); in a year we spend 1 third of our lives at work, plus a quarter of Americans say that work is their No. 1 source of stress. With this in mind, the businesses which we work for (and which we run and manage) should be aware of the effects of workplace stress on mental health as well as ways to detect and prevent it.
This year’s #WorldMentalHealthDay theme is suicide prevention, and if the workplace can play some part in this then why would businesses not want to make those changes.
The Mental Health Foundation has a comprehensive and downloadable guide to mental health in the workplace for management to get it right and help the people who need it.
Drawing from this guide, we’re highlighting a few things that you can do to help your employees and colleagues:
Ask and Listen:
While this is a term often used by management referring to communication regarding working matters, overly conveying an open-door policy can help employees to know that their management is there should they need them. This may not be to directly confide about mental health but to discuss a workload that they feel is overwhelming for them or a conflict or hostile environment which is developing. These are things that management can help with, helping to alleviate possible triggers for staff.
Regular check-ins with staff mean that management can know more intimately what is going on with the workforce and also get to know employees on a more personal level. In a large company, this might be down to line managers, as top management can’t be expected to check in with 100’s of employees each week or month. However, doing this means that any changes in behaviour which could signify a struggling individual can be more easily detected. Making a conscious effort to listen to what employees are actually saying is a vital part of this. Remember that saying ‘I’m fine’ doesn’t always mean that they are fine, so take note of the other details they give you and of their other interactions and performance in the workplace, truly listening to everything they have to say to you, verbally or non-verbally.
Breaks & Holiday Time
Holiday time is often left unused at the end of the year, Tombola found that 44% of Brits hadn’t used their full holiday allowance last year with reasons varying from having too much work to their boss not approving!
Both holiday time to recharge and appropriate and lawful breaks should be taken and should be encouraged by the companies we work for. Our minds are not built for and therefore capable of being at a desk or dedicated to one task of any kind for the full, uninterrupted working day. This is counterproductive and can be damaging to mental health. Breaks can help our minds reset and give perspective, away from the deadline-driven working environments so many of us occupy as our 9 to 5. And on this note, how many of us are guilty of not working a 9 to 5, but, in fact, regularly working overtime and burning the midnight oil? The same research from Tombola found that 74% of us in the UK admitted to working overtime, 46% of those people would do so weekly or daily.
Encourage employees to take regular breaks and use the holiday time that comes with the job role!
It’s a great step for management to make these changes and be aware of the possible symptoms of mental health issues, but colleagues usually spend more time with each other than they do with your management teams, so getting everyone educated is the next step to take to improve the workplace environment as a whole.
What else can you offer to help to manage and prevent mental health issues from affecting your workforce? For those who are already suffering from mental health issues, the workplace can be one of the most aggravating components of their lives.
Now ‘popular’ activities such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga have all been linked to lowering stress levels and better managing mental health issues. Offering workshops like these either pre, post or during working hours shows that your workplace really is reaching out to look after its workers.
Similarly, fitness and regular movement is linked to stress and anxiety-busting, so anything you can do to get the office moving more regularly is a great move. Perhaps this can be incorporated into the use of regular breaks.