It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. We want to show you what employers can do to help improve the mental health of people in your work environment. Looking at research from both the Mental Health Foundation and other sources as well as personal experiences. The aim of this is to bring you some ideas to implement in your work place to support staff with existing mental health issues. As well as helping create a positive environment for discussing and addressing general mental health. It’s fantastic there has been so much focus on mental health in the last couple of years from the likes of the royal family discussing their own issues. Key figures in the spotlight have also draw attention to the issue. Thankfully, there has also been much attention brought to the workplace and how we can help those struggling with mental health issues.
How can Workplace stress affect mental Health?
We all get stressed, infact I was stressed about writing this article and making sure I conveyed the messages correctly. Stress affects everyone, it affects people in different ways. There can be many various factors that bring on stress in our life. Mental Health Foundation “Stress is are body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event”. Work related stress can be the cause for some mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and while it may not always cause this, it can affect many individuals short and long term. Half a million people are living in the UK experience work related stress.
Stress can have many effects on the body . A change in eating habits to struggle sleeping are just some physical effects. We know this is an issue and wrote an article on how to reduce stress and get a better nights sleep.
So what can employers do to help? Below are 3 steps they can take.
1. Manage the work environment out of office hours
38% of people admit feeling stressed as a result of work. Over 50% of people saying that they take calls and check emails out of working hours. This results out of pressures and expectations from a high pressured work environment. Employers should establish a culture of where employees are not expected to work out of office hours. The best practice for this, is for management teams to demonstrate by example. Such as : stop sending emails at 11pm and on Sunday evenings.
UK employees work an average of 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime each week. Although management might not explicitly say they want staff to work weekends and evenings, there is often a feeling by employees that they are expected too. In order to get more productive happier staff, management needs to take action and set an example of working culture.
2. Facilitate the time for exercise or mindfulness sessions
It’s good to get away from the desk. Research has shown that leading a healthy lifestyle through diet, exercise and mental care and lead to overall happier and healthier person. Facilitate the time in the week for staff to do exercise or attend mindfulness sessions. Maybe create a social sport team the employees can participate in such as netball, softball and football. Give your staff discounts to the gym and give the ability to arrive 20 mins later or leave 20 minutes early if they are going to attend the gym before or after work.
This will encourage participation and won’t make staff guilty for leaving bang on time. Or if exercise is not a popular option why don’t you have mindfulness sessions you run monthly, where you hire someone externally to come in have sessions with staff. Or encourage lunchtimes walks – maybe a mindful lunchtime walk every other week. You could also have a staff subscription to Headspace.
3. Remove the barrier of Mental Health Communication
Talking about how you are struggling and admitting the difficulties you are facing at work or personally is one of the biggest challenges. People fear being judged and being seen by peers and managers as unable to cope. Managers need to remove the barrier of communication for talking about these issues. They need to have regular catch ups with staff to check in. Find out how they are coping with the work and any other concerns. The space for this talk needs to be a relaxing environment away from the hustle of desks.
In order to help managers facilitate these conversations, HR departments should train staff on how to have these conversations and perhaps teach them about the look out signs for mental health issues or high levels of stress. Managers should have a set of resources they can give to staff about managing stress, getting more sleep and eating habits that staff can have access too if they need, as a form of self help.
Mental Health issues need to be understood more by workplaces and better supported, these steps above are not all the things you should be doing, but some ideas to get you on the road to creating a more supportive environment for your staff.