From the 18th – 24th May, it’s Mental Health week. A time for us all to take stock of how we’re doing and given the current climate, it makes good sense to check in with ourselves and with those around us.
Mental Health is with us all the time, not just in our personal lives so we need to consider the impact of work on our people and the impact of our people’s mental health on their work. We all have mental health and we all need to take care of it. Some people will struggle with their mental health more than others, in the same way that some people may struggle to read small print or walk up several flights of stairs. Of course, some people will live with a specific condition and need appropriate support and help.
Although the spotlight on mental health for a week each year brings attention to an incredibly important aspect of us, of course things change all the time. Different experiences (plus food, weather, hormones, sleep etc) impact on how well we’re able to cope.
Mental Health and Covid-19
Currently many people will be looking at mental health through a COVID-19 lens as we experience significant change and uncertainty. In that respect it’s an ideal time to think about mental health in the workplace.
People with diagnosed conditions may have a plan or toolkit in place to manage their challenges, some people may have prescribed medication or engage in certain activities or groups to keep themselves buoyant. COVID-19 has taken some of those coping measures away and people’s normal support networks have fallen by the wayside.
Those people without diagnosed conditions may also find they’re feeling different and they may be realising how many aspects of their lives helped them to cope. Only now, that the same outlets aren’t available, are they realising they are struggling.
So how can employers support their employees mental health?
Some companies have brilliant health and wellbeing initiatives to support employees throughout the inevitable ups and downs of life. You may have a wonderful package of free fruit on a Friday or Yoga every Monday, but these options aren’t available, or suitable, to everyone. In companies where there is a limited budget and other restraints, creative thinking can really pay off.
There are some simple measures that can support all employees without needing a specific environment and they mostly centre around how people treat each other. Most practices that are focused on positive outcomes from both employees and employers are centred around ‘engagement’.
Employee engagement has four core elements:
- Line Managers
- Employee Voice
- Organisational Integrity.
If at first it isn’t easy to link those four factors with mental health, see if you can break it down to a more specific behaviour or action.
Take sleep for example. It is essential that people have enough sleep to be able to perform their jobs and to generally function well. No-one can help someone get to sleep (although there is an app for that) but there are behaviours that more helpful and unhelpful.
If someone works in an environment where there is a lot of pressure to get to be in the office for a certain time, it may be more difficult for them to get to sleep as the feelings of anxiety kick in and thoughts of needing to get to sleep quickly so I’m not late for work circle in their minds.
Conversely, an employee with a high level of engagement (enabled by the behaviours in their place of work) may find themselves falling asleep quickly and looking forward to going to work the next day.
A shift in behaviour doesn’t have to cost very much money and the dividends are worth the investment of time; these will pay off for years to come.
So this week, as you will no doubt see many references to mental health, think about what would really make a difference to the people around you.
The charity Mind have some great resources on mental wellbeing in the workplace that you can access for free and they apply to all shapes and sizes of businesses. You can access the link here.
If you would like to discuss improving engagement and wellbeing in your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org