Author: Dr Zain Sikafi, CEO and co-founder of Mynurva
10 Oct 2018
Celebrated on October 10 each year, World Mental Health Day symbolises a global effort to address mental health and promote discussion about this important topic. Regrettably, despite the widespread attention the event generates every year, there is still plenty of work to be done in addressing mental ill health.
Mental health is a particularly pressing issue in the workplace, with many professionals suffering from stress, anxiety and depression. According to data from the World Health Organisation, 27 percent of the adult population in Europe has experienced at least one mental disorder in the past year, with symptoms including depression and anxiety. In fact, estimates suggest that 83 million adults in Europe are affected by mental illness, taking a massive toll on the individual’s wellbeing.
Mental health is a particularly pressing issue in the workplace, with many professionals suffering from stress, anxiety and depression
In light of World Mental Health Day, employers and employees alike should take some time to reflect on their personal wellbeing and that of their colleagues and consider measures they could implement to promote positive mental health within the workplace.
Maintaining a good work-life balance is key to wellbeing, especially for those in high-pressure environments who face long hours, demanding responsibilities and tight deadlines. A few simple changes could improve stress management and encourage employees to look after their personal wellbeing.
Take some ‘me time’
It’s incredibly important to make sure you carve out some time for yourself every week and give your body and mind some time to relax and re-energise. Try to make your physical and mental wellbeing a priority by finding activities you enjoy and that help you relax after a long day or busy working week.
Schedule some gym sessions, a spa treatment or take up a new hobby. Doing something you’re good at and enjoy can help to reduce some symptoms of mental illness.
If possible, plan your workload around these activities to help balance your work life and personal life. Encourage your friends or colleagues to get involved; suggest a bike ride on the weekend or form a running group to make regular exercise part of your weekly routine.
Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you become stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Identify someone you can speak to and feel comfortable with. Talking about your feelings with someone you trust can help shift some weight off your shoulders and relieve pent-up negative feelings.
If your mental health issues are taking a toll on your wellbeing and productivity at work, speaking to your supervisor can be a good step towards addressing and overcoming your symptoms. Although opening up about your struggles at work can be daunting, it gives your employer the opportunity to understand the stresses you are dealing with and can encourage them to make changes to help you feel less stressed and anxious.
While it’s important for individuals to look after their mental wellbeing, it’s also crucial that employers make mental health a priority to support employees who may be struggling.
According to the 2017 Mental Health at Work Report, three out of five employees have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work. Encouragingly, however, a greater number of managers recognise that looking after employees’ mental health and wellbeing forms part of their responsibilities – 84 percent compared with 76 percent in 2016.
Nevertheless, the negative stigma around mental illness continues to prevent many people from speaking out about their struggles at work. To promote good mental health in the workplace, employers must take proactive steps to address the needs of their employees and promote a more open culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and voicing their opinions.
Promote awareness and engagement
Making employees feel valued is essential to creating an open environment where they are comfortable speaking about their mental health. Try to encourage employee engagement with mental health initiatives to build morale, improve workplace communication and boost job satisfaction.
Open discussions allow employees to communicate openly about mental health and are a great way to spread awareness about mental health issues in the workplace and promote a greater understanding of the topic. They also provide the opportunity for employees to give feedback about what changes could be made within the workplace to enhance wellbeing.
Much of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness comes from common misconceptions and a lack of understanding. Therefore, educating staff about common mental health issues and holding open discussions is an important part of removing this stigma and encouraging employees to seek support.
Get employees out of the office
The benefits of fresh air and exercise cannot be overlooked. When possible, try to get employees out of the office. This can be great for increasing morale and supporting staff wellbeing – both physical and mental.
A great way to do this is to hold outdoor team building events. Encouraging employees to get involved in physical events like cycling, running or yoga will not only foster more positive relationships within the workplace but can reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Develop support mechanisms
It is important that staff feel they can speak up about their mental health and obtain the support that they need to address and overcome any problems. Clear support mechanisms should be established in every workplace and they should be promoted to ensure widespread awareness among employees.
For many people, speaking about mental health problems at work can be incredibly daunting. Pointing employees towards alternative support mechanisms outside of work can help them get the help they need without having to involve colleagues.
Healthtech solutions like Mynurva, for instance, offer an online platform that enables people to receive counselling via live video calls. This innovative service provides the convenience of quick booking and flexible working times, plus it’s completely confidential.
Addressing mental health is crucial for all organisations – particularly considering the prevalence of poor mental health within the workplace. Taking proactive measures can significantly improve staff wellbeing and encourage employees to seek the support they need. Meanwhile, employees can take simple steps to look after their wellbeing, from doing more exercise to confiding in a friend to using live video counselling. In the long term, these changes can go a significant way to improving wellbeing at work.