We live in an enlightened age for mental health with much of the stigma of bygone years dissipated. Self-care and mental health welfare have become a staple of a healthy lifestyle, both inside and outside of the workplace.
With better understanding, more support and resources have become available online and through different organisations. Support that is vital to people’s welfare, especially when we consider studies that show that as many as one in five adults will experience a mental health problem at least once in their lifetime.
In the workplace, issues and illnesses associated with mental health lead to absenteeism, which in turn leads to a loss of productivity and billions of pounds in lost income. As the average professional spends more time in the workplace than at home, creating a work culture that supports mental health and encourages overall wellbeing is a no brainer for any business.
The space that we work in impacts our health in a variety of ways. Among other benefits, natural light is proven to lift moods and prevent eye strain. If windows aren’t an option, then opt for daylight bulbs that recreate a similar effect.
“Access to a green space, like a roof garden, park or well-stocked balcony offers an opportunity to escape screen time and recharge. If your office location means that the weather doesn’t always allow for time outdoors, provide a space where employees can take their breaks away from their desks and, if possible, away from the kitchen area,” suggests Zoe Hill, a health writer at Eliteassignmenthelp. A space that is solely for relaxing instantly puts us in a relaxed state of mind rather than trying to get five minutes of peace in the corner of a busy kitchen.
You only need to watch one episode of Marie Kondo’s Netflix show to know the negative impact of clutter on mental health. Take a walk around the office to identify any areas that can be tidied up. Is there proper storage space for office supplies and for your employees’ personal belongings? Allowing employees to display personal mementos on their desks can also improve motivation.
Not all workplaces have the capacity to offer an in-house gym like Google but there are easier ways to encourage physical activity at work. Offer wellbeing benefits such as membership (or a supplement) for a local gym. If you have space, perhaps organise a weekly yoga or mindfulness session in the boardroom.
Hiring a personal trainer for the office can have a positive impact on teamwork as well as fitness. Having a trainer come in once or twice a week can boost morale as colleagues bond whilst running or pushing themselves through a set of burpees.
Mental Health Ambassadors
Peers play a significant role in workplace wellness. Help them learn about how they can look after their own mental health as well as what to look out for in others who might need support. “Electing or inviting employees to volunteer as Mental Health Ambassadors is a great way to get the wider team involved. Give the chosen ambassadors a clear brief and let them plan out how they will achieve it,” says Terry Adams, a productivity blogger at Oxessays. Suggestions might include facilitating quarterly or yearly workshops, getting involved with local mental health organisations and providing access to professional support outside of the workplace.
The Right Kind of Foods
Is your office guilty of offering sugary treats to employees? In moderation, this won’t be a problem but many workplaces fall into the habit of having a sugar fuelled culture with seemingly endless cakes for celebrations, snacks in the kitchen and treats to lift the mood.
What we eat is fuel for our bodies and brain. Too much sugar is known to impair brain function which in turn can lead to depression or low moods. Switch out some of the sugary stuff by ordering in weekly fruit deliveries and alternating healthier options into events and meetings – think fruit kebabs and protein balls!
Remember, food affects every aspect of your life. It can be a powerful mood enhancer, it can help you sleep better, feel more energetic and be healthier.
Introverts, extroverts and everyone in between benefit from social activity of some description. A carefully planned social calendar with different types of activities will encourage work colleagues to mix and mingle. Shared experiences bring people together and create support networks. Social events can prevent individuals from feeling isolated and also help others in the workplace to identify if they think that a colleague might be struggling. Organising some smaller events could be a task for your mental health ambassadors.
We travel more and further than ever before. Maybe it’s a fear of missing out fuelled by the glamorous lives we see on Instagram or the advent of cheaper travel. Whatever the reason, millions of more people travel overseas every year. Rest and recuperation are obviously good for us, but have you ever come back from holiday feeling like you need another? Jamming as much travel as possible isn’t always the best way to use our annual leave days.
Using annual leave strategically can improve general wellbeing and support mental health welfare. Mapping out the year ahead to ensure there are no long periods without a break and scheduling in duvet days or mental health days can help prevent burnout.
Likewise, in the working week, it is essential to balance the time spent working and the time for our health. Longer hours, out-of-hours emails and excess screen time prevent us from ‘switching off’ adding additional pressure to our mental health.
Make Mental Health More Than Just A Policy
Whatever methods or policy you settle on be sure to keep it alive with regular activities and training. As employers and individuals, we have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of those around us. Education within the workplace is a big part of this as without it the right tools and knowledge mental health will not be understood. Help your team learn the difference between a bad mood and a mental health struggle and what to do if they or someone else needs help. Knowing how to approach or talk to someone who seems upset is a valuable life skill that can help colleagues to look out for one another and keep each other well.
Aimee Laurence is a content editor at Paperfellows website. She writes about mental health and productivity.