In the UK, approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem every year. According to research published by the Mental Health Foundation, two-thirds of British adults have admitted to experiencing ill mental health at some point in their lives. So it’s no surprise that worldwide, over 200 million workdays are lost every single year to mental health conditions. That’s approximately $16.8 billion dollars in employee productivity.
Yet despite the impact this has on both employees and employers, the topic is still a taboo. So, what can we do about it?
Start The Conversation
Talking about it is key to shedding the stigma. Many may feel that they can’t talk openly about their mental health, particularly in a professional environment. They might worry that their employer will think of them as less capable or treat them differently. Of course, this is not a conversation to be had with haste. It’s important to make sure that any discussion is had in an environment, and with a person, that makes you feel secure and safe.
It’s daunting to do so, but when you don’t speak out, you’re actively denying yourself potential support. Shame is a massive part of a multitude of mental illnesses, and a lot of wasted energy is invested into hiding symptoms. An open and honest conversation can mean that a strategy is put in place to make sure employees can manage their mental health, and therefore employers get the best out of them. It’s a win, win situation.
Struggling to manage your mental health at work? Here's Mind's top tips for staying well...
RECLAIM YOUR LUNCH BREAK
Why not make the most of that precious hour – or half hour – by trying some of these suggestions...
Hold A Group Activity
If there’s a green space near your workplace why not organise a game of rounders or football, hold a guerrilla gardening session, or a group walk? Take time to enjoy the outdoors and get re-energised for an afternoon of productive work.
Take Up A Challenge
Local sponsored walks or marathons are a great way to keep active. Sign with your colleagues and train together during lunch breaks. Participating as part of a team can give a communal sense of achievement when you complete the challenge. You could even support Mind’s work by signing up to one of our running events.
Whistle While You Work
If you’re feeling stressed, listening to a calming song can take your mind off work for a few minutes and help you unwind and refocus. Research has found slow, quiet music can encourage relaxation and reduce anxiety. When you’re working hard to complete a task, music can also help eliminate distractions around you. By blocking out the noise of your fellow workers, machinery or bleeping phones you can focus easier on the task at hand.
Listen to your favourite song as a simple treat to yourself. Rewarding yourself is a great way for your general wellbeing, giving you some added motivation so you can better tackle a big workload.
GETTING THE WORK-LIFE BALANCE RIGHT
Are You Often The Last To Leave Work?
We know you’ll have times when you need to work overtime to meet deadlines but try to make this the exception not the norm. Long hours mean you may be working harder, but not better – they’ll quickly take their toll on your concentration, productiveness and health.
Create Clear Boundaries Between Work and Home
Try not to let work spill over into your personal life. If you need to bring work home, designate a separate area for work and stick to it, you’ll find it much easier to then close the door on work.
Start A To Do List
At the end of each day, go over your list and write up one for the next day, when your thoughts are down on paper, you’ll find it easier to not think about work.
Use The Time On Your Commute To Wind Down From Work
Read a book or listen to your music to set aside some time to yourself. Maybe try cycling part of your journey or getting off a stop early to take a shortcut through a park or quiet streets. These little actions can really help you to switch off.
Ask For Help
f you feel your workload is spiralling out of control, take opportunity to discuss it with your manager or supervisor. If you can't resolve the problem of unrealistic goals, organisation problems or deadlines in this way, talk to your personnel department, trade union representative or other relevant members of staff.
But of course, despite all the above things that can be done by the individual, it’s important to note that change, particularly when it comes to workplace culture, starts at the top. Leaders need to encourage teams, managers, and more senior employees to be open about their own experiences & show vulnerability as a strength (rather than a weakness) to create an environment of transparency. Good mental health benefits are crucial for both employees and companies themselves, so putting policies in place and making sure employees are aware of them (and aren’t too scared to use them) is key.
Want more info on supporting staff who may be experiencing a mental health problem? Check out Mind’s resource, here.