Workplace well-being

Written by Becky Banham
Becky Banham
Counselling Directory Content Team

Look around your workplace. Do you know if anyone is struggling?

You may think those around you - whether fellow colleagues or your staff - are completely fine. They may appear confident and happy, even if they’re more of a quiet type, they still appear fine. But the thing is, mental health affects us all and problems in the workplace are actually very common.

According to mental health charity Mind, one in six workers are experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

According to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, poor mental health is responsible for more than half of work-related illnesses, with 51% of long-term sick leave being due to stress, depression, or anxiety. With 61% of workers saying they feel exhausted at the end of most working days, it’s no wonder more of us are looking for ways we can prioritise our well-being both at work and home.

Over recent years, it’s become more normalised to talk about mental health. Awareness and understanding of mental health and the importance of accessing support have improved. Slowly but surely, things are starting to change.

At work, it can still feel like mental health is a tricky subject to talk about. If you’re struggling, you may feel nervous, scared, or ashamed to speak up. You may not know who to speak to, or if your company offers any help. It’s important to remember that help is available, and it is always worth seeing support for your mental health and well-being. 

Learn more about the effects of work-related stress and how counselling can help.

In this video, Claire Elmes (MBACP), a well-being consultant, therapist and stress coach, discusses the importance of workplace well-being and outlines how businesses can support their staff.

Why is workplace well-being important? 

All of us have mental health. It’s just as important to look after ourselves mentally, as we do physically. So why are so many of us worried about admitting we need help?

According to research, 12.7% of all sickness absence days from work in the UK are down to mental health conditions. Looking after yourself is good for you, and for your work too. The better you feel, the better you are able to handle stress. When you take time to look after your mental health and well-being, you may even find yourself feeling more motivated, passionate, and productive. Knowing that you can reach out and ask for help when you need it can be a huge first step.

You may feel reluctant to talk about your mental health and well-being for a number of different reasons. Maybe you feel scared of being judged or are worried there may be financial issues if you need to take time off. Employers need to take responsibility - conversations must be had and the stigma needs to be broken. There should be no shame in talking about mental health and asking for help. 

Starting a conversation about mental health in the workplace doesn’t have to be difficult. You can meet someone for a coffee and a catch-up, asking them how they’re doing, or you can arrange a team event. Promoting talking about mental health, offering support and raising awareness can also help. 

What can you do to support employees?

Here, Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, shares her top tips for creating a mentally healthy workplace.

Engage your senior leaders

Getting the buy-in of those at board level is key to the development of an impactful well-being strategy.If senior leaders have a clear understanding of the positive impact supporting well-being has on productivity and the sustainability of their business, it puts you in a much stronger position to start developing your strategy.

Involve line managers from the outset

It’s important to make sure line managers are the first to be aware of your well-being strategy. Make sure to hold a meeting with them and get their input before you begin. Line managers can then support in communicating plans to their teams and explaining their significance.  

Give managers the skills

Give your line managers the skills to support their team’s well-being. Training line managers in mental health first aid supports them in ensuring employees are mentally healthy and able to perform at their best. Line managers are the people best placed to spot changes in team performance and behaviour that may indicate an underlying mental health issue. They are also well-placed to instigate a culture change around mental health and well-being.

Make it part of line management

If line managers believe it’s part of their responsibility and what they do impacts their team’s well-being, it makes sense to include well-being assessments as part of management catch-ups. An open dialogue on well-being can only lead to better working relationships and improved outcomes in terms of job satisfaction and productivity. Introducing this will of course be helped by first sensitising your organisation to talking about well-being and training up your line managers.

Communicate your policies

Awareness-raising initiatives and well-being policies are of course more powerful when employees are proactively made aware of them. As well as line managers, take advantage of any other channels of internal communication to let people know about your workplace’s engagement with the ‘take 10’ campaign, for example, or clearly advertise the fact that staff in your organisation have undertaken mental health training.

Work towards sustainability

Don’t let the impact of initial awareness campaigns and training fizzle out. Keep up momentum around mental health awareness by organising events around national campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week in May and World Mental Health Day in October. Many organisations also ensure the impact of any training is perpetuated through lunch and learn sessions, where employees share their skills and knowledge. Creating support networks of those trained or organising health and wellness seminars is also a great way of doing this.

Make reasonable adjustments

Be open to supporting staff with mental health issues to work, or to return to work, by making reasonable adjustments to their working patterns on a permanent or temporary basis. This could mean introducing flexible working hours or changing their contracted hours month by month to facilitate a phased return. Be sensitive also to factors such as noise levels, ways of working, managing workload and making adjustments as appropriate, to ensure an individual’s well-being and productivity are supported along the way.

Measure the impact

Measuring the impact training and awareness campaigns have is essential to informing your approach and sustaining momentum for a mentally healthy workplace. Only with thorough evaluation can you then look to refine and enhance your well-being strategy.

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