We all experience different levels of mental health during our life. As we spend so much of our day in the workplace, it is inevitable that work will affect our mental health- with statistics showing three out of five workers have experienced mental health issues where work was a contributing factor.
The workplace is becoming increasingly pressurised, with tight deadlines, budget constraints, unstable working conditions in an often unsteady economy and more technology demands.
So it’s no surprise we are more and more challenged with looking after our mental health at work.
The good news is we feel more able to talk about our mental health at work – over half of us feel comfortable taking about mental health issues like anxiety and depression at work, and 76% of people who have experienced an issue as a result of work feel their colleagues care about their wellbeing. But only 11% of us talked to our line manager about it.*
It’s mental health awareness this week, and the 2018 focus is stress. How to talk about it, manage it, and support our staff and ourselves in stressful times.
Here are some practical tools you can use right away to address this.
While company culture starts with the business leaders and rolls down from the top, it is always possible to create a positive wellness environment in your team and see the effects spill out sideways into other teams, and often go upwards to positively influence managers.
Experiencing wellbeing directly is also the best way to show people how beneficial it is to care for yourself at work – so start implementing some practical exercises and once people feel the positive effects, they are more likely to talk about it – and it will show to everyone around you/ them.
How do I start bringing more wellbeing into where I work?
Create a wellness plan in your immediate team
Make a pact to check in with each other, have mindful moments at the start of meetings (take 3 deep breaths) & do walking meetings. Start small with your team and see the ripple effect.
Nominate a mental health first aider
Ask your organisation if they will nominate a few people who can support on mental health issues or just be someone to talk to. If this isn’t possible, you can be a wellness buddy to someone else in the business to check in with and simply ask them how they are.
Champion the small things
Doing positive actions little and often has a far greater impact than one wellness training session or yoga class once a month. By committing to your mental health every day, you also increase your own awareness of how you are doing. By giving yourself 10 minutes at lunchtime to take a walk and sit in the park, you allow yourself space to check in with yourself and see how you are feeling. In this way you can catch any stressful feelings early on rather than letting them build up.
Wellness at work doesn’t always have to be costly so think of some creative ways to incorporate more wellness at work and start small – charity work in your lunch hour is a great way to get staff together and help the local community, team running clubs or football, does anyone in the business teach yoga or pilates and would be willing to volunteer a class once a week?
Ask your HR or office manager if there is any budget to cover wellness initiatives - go for the low budget options and be creative - if you don't ask you don't get!
Here is some inspiration to build small pockets of goodness into your day…
Have lunch in the park or in a common area – far away from your desk.
Leave work on time and have a small ritual you do at the end of every day to signal your break between work and home- mine was putting my clean mug back on my desk ready for my morning tea- there was no way I was going back to work after that!
Call a friend or loved one in your lunch hour to say hi.
Read a book or an interesting article in your break instead of eating while working.
Start a running club with colleagues or do some gentle yoga in the park before / after work or at lunch.
Go for a mindful walk in your lunch hour where you walk with no intention (not to grab lunch or do those errands) just enjoying the walk for what it is and noticing the scenery around you.
Start meetings with a check in – go around the room and ask each person how they are feeling or if that feels too personal – ask where their focus is for the next hour- what do they want to get out of the meeting? This helps bring people fully into the present and clarify their thoughts.
Hold meetings in the park or on a walk rather than in a meeting room- this allows more creative thinking and change of scene and builds in some movement.
Allow yourself a 3 min breathing space a few times in the day – consciously taking 3 minutes to focus on your breathing either when things get stressful or just when you need a mental re set.
Book in your favourite fitness or yoga class into your work calendar so that time is blocked out and commit to going every week- even when work gets busy.
Get in some experts - Ask around the business for anyone with a nutrition or fitness friend and see if they will come in and give a short talk on their area of expertise – Friday lunchtimes are a great time for a lunch and learn session!
Start a wellness library - Bring in your favourite life/self-help/wellness books and create a shared library in the office - extra points if you can get the company to buy a bean bag or two and create a quiet corner to read or simply rest.
Replace beer with smoothies - see if the monthly social can be replaced once in a while with smoothies, fresh fruit or healthy food for the office- it sends a positive message and encourages staff to eat well.
There's a lot to try out here so I would suggest picking one or two, telling one of your colleagues what you are going to try and asking them to encourage you so that the next time you're eating lunch while working, they can be an accountability buddy and nudge/ shove you away from your screen.
*Stats taken from the "2017 Mental Health at Work Report" commissioned by Business in the Community & YouGov.