I have made time to focus and write this short 4 minute piece, have been struck again personally by this important issue. After a colleague who had battled with his mental well-being, and lost, and left us all reeling in disbelief and shock, when he took his own life. A gifted father, husband, a talented human being, and friend. Gone. Why had none of us reached out? Just phoned to say “Hello mate! How’s tricks?”. Upon reflection, we have now learned we all could have done so much better. Give this some serious thought to your colleagues, and do better than I did please.
Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health problems are now the leading cause of disability in the UK, affecting 1 in 4 of us throughout the lifespan (World Health Organisation [WHO], 2017 https://www.who.int/). It is important to recognise that mental “health” extends beyond the absence of mental health disorders; it is a state of well-being in which an individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life and is able to work productively.
Your mental health is determined by a range of environmental, socioeconomic and biological factors; poor mental health is often associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations. As such, we all have a responsibility in the workplace to create an environment where employees feel safe to be themselves and feel comfortable speaking to someone if they are having a bad day.
The World’s Most Common Mental Health Disorders
In recent years, we have opened up the conversation about the world’s most common mental health disorders.
The most common mental health disorder, depression, affects around 320 million people worldwide (WHO, 2017) and is characterised by ongoing depressed mood or “feeling low” and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. Other symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep disturbance, difficulty with concentration and memory and reduced self-esteem.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
OCD is often misunderstood and is an incredibly debilitating disorder. It is characterised by obsessive, almost constant thoughts, images or impulses that are difficult to ignore (called obsessions), and a strong feeling that the person must repeat certain physical acts or mental processes (called compulsions) to help overcome such thoughts.
Anxiety disorders are characterised by excessive and disproportionate worries and difficulties controlling them. Other symptoms include restlessness, fatigue and sleep and concentration disturbance.
Other common mental health disorder include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bipolar Disorder and Panic Disorders.
Actionable Strategies for Advancing Workplace Mental Health
Forming an employee wellness committee in your business not only allows your team to learn more about mental health but also provides a point of contact for those who may need to discuss and receive support for mental health difficulties. A Wellness Committee could also extend its efforts beyond the office and engage in or host panel discussions and events that promote mental wellbeing. De-stigmatising mental health in this way will encourage employees to speak up when they need help – an initiative that has already seen great success in large companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car https://careersblog.enterprise.co.uk/now-is-the-time-to-talk-about-mental-health/ .
Communications (Chat, speak face to face, get to know one another)
It is important to establish communication processes that educate employees on stigma, psychological illness and safety relating to mental health. A useful method to ensure the mental well-being of your employees is to provide annual or quarterly confidential surveys that monitor the mental well-being of your team. For more information on this, visit the mental health report by the American Heart Association who propose some useful workplace strategies. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/03/05/top-ceos-offer-strategies-to-improve-workplace-mental-health
Identify ways to align with local organisations to improve mental health within your community. This is also a good way to evaluate and discuss other companies’ mental health practises to see if they will be a good fit for your company. Recent research has demonstrated the importance of physical activity and mindfulness-based practises in mental health and has been particularly effective in treating depressive symptoms. A range of UK businesses are now engaging with local yoga studios https://londonlovesbusiness.com/why-wellness-in-the-workplace-matters/ to promote work-life balance. This not only helps with stress management but also enables employees’ remain motivated and productive.
Ensure leaders demonstrate visible and proactive actions to build an inclusive culture that supports a mental-health-friendly workplace (e.g. incorporating a health and well-being section into monthly employee one-to-ones is a good initiative to demonstrate support for your teams). Providing external annual training with experts in workplace wellbeing and mental health coaching is incredibly useful in helping them lead wellbeing conversations with your team. Mental Health at Work https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/ is a particularly useful site for smaller organisations that may not have the resources to offer comprehensive mental health support in-house. Businesses can find advice on everything from training in mental health awareness to structuring a full program of support. Senior leaders can also ensure that employees are made aware of the services and support the company offers for mental well-being.
7 Miles a Minute Ltd
Here at 7 Miles a Minute, we are a team of expert executive leadership performance coaches, keynote speakers and accredited Miro psychometric and Performance Climate System practitioners. We support businesses across the UK and US develop long-lasting mental wellbeing and develop action plans to help your team perform to the best of their ability. We help you identify your workplace climate and ways to ensure your people are happy at work, in turn, fuelling your team’s appetite to grow as a unit.
Some of our clients include the Bank of England, FlyBy Technology, VISTAGE, and the NHS. If you wish to learn more about 7 Miles a Minute and what we can do to enhance your workplace health and well-being practises, get in touch today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(+44) 7903 849 262