Top tips for strong mental health at work

To be successful in business, you need to be mentally resilient, a trait that is often overlooked.  Business leaders and entrepreneurs are bombarded with guidance on managing finances, building teams or making the most of their marketing and social media, but precious little time is devoted to looking after mental health and well-being.

Yet, without resilience and stability, you could be putting yourself, your team and your business at risk.  Stress can have a huge impact on decision making, productivity and effectiveness, and untreated will require significant time off work.

I often hear from people that they don’t feel able to admit that work is having a negative impact on their home life and health, they can’t sleep, they’re taking their worries home with them and a work/life balance is a dim and distant dream.  They know they’re suffering from stress, but don’t feel it warrants time off – yet by carrying on, they could be storing up greater problems for the future.

Sickness absence

Stress and depression are two of the major causes of sickness absence in the workplace, so investing time and money into protecting yourself and your workforce by preventing mental ill health is essential to promote efficiency and profitability.

Looking after mental health and wellbeing should become part of your daily routine, and you have a responsibility to not only put in place protection for yourself and your workforce, but make sure these protections are being adhered to.

Top Tips

Here are some top tips to help your mental resilience in the workplace.

  1. Appoint Mental Health First Aiders. In the same way as you have First Aiders to cope with physical injuries, train some key staff members to identify when colleagues may be struggling and provide some support to them before these issues escalate.
  2. Create an environment where your workforce feels able to acknowledge their feelings and emotions and does’nt feel they will be stigmatised or penalised by admitting to stress or depression. Staff need to feel confident they’ll be supported whether they have physical or mental ill health.
  3. Encourage a good work life balance. Lead by example; take a lunch break every day; leave work on time; don’t take work home with you on a regular basis and take holidays. Regular breaks and restricting the amount of time at work, you and your team will be refreshed and therefore more productive and effective.
  4. Organise events that get staff together for activities other than work. This could be a weekly walk one lunchtime, a works football or darts team, an annual picnic with families or working together to support a charity through fundraising or with practical help such as repainting a community centre or sharing skills. This engages your team in activities other than just making money, creates a stronger team spirit and provides a greater sense of self-worth.
  5. Look after the work environment. Even the most dedicated team members feel deflated if they are constantly asked to work in cluttered surroundings with poor décor – it creates a feeling of not being valued. Provision of quality equipment, be that tools, computers, desks, chairs or pens, is essential to staff well-being.  Clean, well maintained environments support good mental health and access to relaxation space and outdoor space is an added bonus.
  6. Get your team moving. This is particularly important for desk bound staff or those involved in sedentary work. Even small amounts of exercise will boost positive feelings and improve physical health.  This could be a 10-minute walk at lunchtime, workplace yoga or subsidised membership to a local gym.  By working on physical and mental health, you will be reducing sickness absence.
  7. Get talking. Encourage your staff to open up about how they’re feeling, if they are used to talking about emotions to each other or management then they’re more likely to tell you when things aren’t going well. Make mental health one of the issues in the appraisal.

Where organisations get their approach to mental health right, sickness absence falls, staff are more engaged and productive, and recruitment and retention isn’t a problem.  It makes good financial and management sense to invest time and money into providing a positive environment for staff and supporting them when life’s hurdles get in the way. What are you waiting for?

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