According to The Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. With the onset of initiatives such as world mental health day, awareness of mental health is certainly increasing. This is not to say that a stigma doesn’t still exist around the issue.
Mental health is so vital to everything we do. We live in a world where notions of physical health are constantly at the forefront of our media streams and yet the issue of mental health seems to get side-lined.
Today, companies of all shapes and sizes are increasingly beginning to understand the importance of good mental health, yet many simply don’t feel confident handling and communicating these issues in the workplace. To gain perspective, it can help to take a look at other cultures, and how their attitudes towards wellbeing differ so vastly.
For example, Sweden recently championed the 6 hour day and reported significantly reduced levels of illness and burnout as a result. Meanwhile, in countries such as Italy and Mexico, riposos (rests) in the middle of the working day are still common and considered vital when it comes to increase well-being and productivity.
Now, that’s certainly not to imply that popping home from the office for a nap will solve all our problems, but it’s notable that enlightened companies know their best investment is in their employees’ physical and mental health.
In the interest of bringing mental health and well-being to the forefront of our working world, we’ve listed some top tips for creating an open culture:
Breaks & flexibility
Working hard can be rewarding, especially when you’re lucky enough to be in a field that you love. However, when deadlines are looming, we often find ourselves burning the midnight oil long after our regular working hours. Overworking quickly takes its toll on your concentration, productiveness and health and can be damaging in the long run. Flexible working hours can help people better manage their time, and provide breathing space to prioritise when they’re feeling under pressure or particularly overwhelmed. Regular breaks are also great for beating those afternoon slumps.
Building and encouraging a culture of support
A positive and supportive attitude goes a long way, and when you consider the fact that on average, we spend more time with our work colleagues then we do with our family and friends, it becomes clear that an understanding work team can be crucial to our overall health. Whether you’re a tiny business or part of a large corporate cohort, be present. Look out for one another and take care to always foster a safe and respectful environment.
Never assume and always ask. If we want things to progress, then we can’t be afraid to talk about things that may seem daunting at first. Silence and uncommunicativeness often feed misunderstanding. The important thing to remember is that mental health issues are prevalent for everyone. Changing a culture won’t happen overnight but creating an open dialogue will work wonders. The first step is giving ourselves and others the opportunity to discuss how we’re all feeling, in whichever way is most comfortable for the individual.
For me, when it comes to mental health (in the workplace and otherwise) the key to creating a healthy culture is being in an environment that allows you to feel safe enough to be yourself. Better still, is an environment that acknowledges individuality and takes steps to actively encourage you to be yourself.
Ultimately, good mental health leads to socially healthier societies, and so it should be at the forefront of all our agendas. Mental wellbeing helps people to achieve their potential, realise ambitions, cope with adversity, work productively and contribute to their communities too! So what are we waiting for? Let’s get talking about mental health.