Mental health is just as, if not more, important than physical health and is something that is ever present and ever discussed within the world today. Mental health can change from good to bad very quickly and, bearing in mind most people spend the majority of their week at work, it may come as no surprise that workplace environment and culture can have a huge impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
Research has consistently shown that when employees feel supported and valued at work then they typically have higher levels of wellbeing and, as a result, are more committed to the company and its goals and therefore perform better in the workplace. The relationship between staff wellbeing and performance can be termed ‘employee engagement’ and it has been found by the company ‘Mind’ that those companies within the FTSE 100 who prioritise employee engagement and wellbeing have had better production and performance levels than the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10 percent. This just goes to show that supportive, understanding and forward-thinking workplaces can benefit everyone, from employee, to employer, to client.
In this blog, we will look at ways to boost and promote mental health and wellbeing within your workplace.
Supportive Leaders – The first step, and sometimes the hardest step, is to ensure that the senior leaders are on board and supportive. It is so important for senior management to be seen to prioritise staff wellbeing and to be aware that it really matters. Employees pick up on cues from how their managers and/or bosses act and behave, so if they are open and speak out about mental health and wellbeing within the workplace this demonstrates their supportiveness and commitment towards their employees. This may be something as simple as encouraging your staff to leave their desk at lunch time and to go out for a walk, or to allow them to finish earlier if you have noticed them working late the day before.
Open Discussions – The second step is to openly discuss the topic, where possible, so that it becomes less of a ‘taboo’ subject. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, mental health and wellbeing is still a very secret and irregular topic of conversation. Due to this, often employees don’t find it easy to talk to their boss, line manager or team leader about any worries, problems or concerns they have or how they are feeling and, as such, this leads the problems to worsen. In order to stop this cycle, employers need to try to encourage people to speak out and discuss mental health in order to raise awareness and break down these barriers, whilst proactively challenging mental health and wellbeing as being a ‘taboo’ subject. A way of doing this could be invite a speaker in to your company to discuss how to promote mental health and wellbeing and how best to manage stress within the workplace or to raise the awareness through internal communications within the company in the form of newsletters, posters, sending out tips and tricks etc.
Keep Employees Informed And Included – The third tip is to try to encourage staff to get involved in decision making where possible and to keep an open dialogue within the company. Employees who feel informed, involved and a part of what is going on within the business are more motivated and have a better understanding of where their role sits and what importance it has to the wider organisation. In order to improve staff motivation, performance and wellbeing it is important to be open about the direction and vision of the business and try to involve staff in decision making where at all possible. For example, if you are looking at ways of cutting costs within the business, bringing in new technology or ways of making the company run more efficiently etc, then you should broach the new changes by including all staff and encouraging them to voice any ideas/solutions/input/concerns they may have whilst in turn, listening to their suggestions and actioning any issues that are raised. Employees who feel involved in the decision-making process then feel ownership of the outcome, leading to increased rates of morale and productivity. Here is a list of a few ways to promote conversation, feedback and involvement within a company:
- Send out staff surveys/polls
- Implementation or improvement of away days or training days
- Quarterly companywide performance meetings
- Sending out to the wider company any Board meeting decisions (where possible)
- Suggestion box for employees to contribute any ideas or air any concerns
Encourage Work/Life Balance – The final tip is to look at ways to encourage more work/life balance within the business. All of us are guilty of working long hours when going through a particularly busy time at work, however, whilst longer hours may seem do-able, the increased pressure and lack of work/life balance can very quickly result in burn out of employees. When employees burn out, they are more likely to call in sick and take time off due to stress, which also has a knock-on effect with regards to reduced morale and productivity within the wider business. In order to promote more of a healthy work/life balance there are a few simple steps that can be taken such as working ‘sensible hours’ i.e. following the norm which is between 35-37.5 hours per week, encouraging staff to take their full lunch break and leave their desk, encouraging staff to take their full holiday entitlement rather than allowing them to roll holidays over (unless in special circumstances) and allowing flexibility with regards to hours after a particularly busy period. Another way to promote a healthier work/life balance within the workplace would be to look at offering flexible working, as this can be seen to result in healthier and more productive working habits. Even a small change such as allowing staff to start work later or finish earlier two days a week so that they can do things they enjoy for example, go to the gym, pick up/drop off their children can hugely increase their mental wellbeing, and allow them to fit their lives around their work in better balance. On the employer side it also has its benefits as it means your employees are likely to be happier, healthier, more productive and less likely to take time off work due to stress related illness or burnout.
Following these small steps can really help to promote and improve mental health and wellbeing within the workplace, which will result in huge changes within the business both for employees, employers and clients. However the key is to ensure, wherever possible, that senior leaders, managers and bosses etc also follow these key tips and lead by example.