We live in an incredibly demanding world, our work and home lives continue to merge, we are bombarded with information and lack in chances to take some time out and reset.
As Maslow theorised in 1943, people have needs. Those needs don’t stop just because we walk into our workplace but we have certainly got really good at hiding how we feel. Mind have found that 30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’. A culture of fear and silence is costing not just the employers financially, but the employees well-being.
Suppressing our emotions results in a disconnect between how we act and how we feel and who we truly are deep down. We may become uncertain about our own emotions, become emotionally exhausted, depersonalised and alienated.
“Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (WHO). Every single person has mental health, we all sit on a continuum:
Henry Stewart, Happy Manifesto (read it if you haven’t already!), depicts our needs related to the workplace perfectly:
Adjustments to aid well-being are generally simple. My challenge to you is, why are we waiting until people need adjustments? Staff turnover, reduced productivity and sickness cost the UK economy between £74-99bn last year, with the cost to employers adding up to between £33-42bn (Thriving at work, 2017). Evaluations of workplace interventions show a return a return to business of between £1.50-£9 for every £1 invested.
How can you support your team members?
- Increased positive and constructive feedback
- Extra training, coaching or mentoring
- Encourage healthy habits such as exercise, eating healthily, taking breaks
- Encourage self awareness and reflection
- Flexible hours and break times
- Allow mental health days understanding that sometimes life just gets too much. Powering through, pretending everything is fine and ignoring warning signs results in people skating on thin ice where their wellbeing is concerned.
- Set healthy boundaries, do you really want your team members burning themselves out?
- Good work spaces e.g quieter / less busy / quiet rooms / break out spaces / natural light
- Encourage your workplace to create space where people can share the nice bits of feedback to help lift moods. It will help people feel valued and see that their work matters
- Provide well-being mentors, well-being action plans and a point of contact when things feel like they are getting too much
- Through return-to-work policies e.g phased return
- Agreements to give leave at short notice and time off for appointments related to their mental health
- Understand the signs and symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions that can help you to look out for others
- It should go without saying, but, don’t discriminate
- Lastly, openly communicate that it’s ok to not be ok!
Boris Johnson has been quoted as saying, “Supporting the mental well-being of employees is good for business – it is as simple as that”.
Let’s just tweak that, how about…. supporting mental well-being is the right thing to do – it is as simple as that.
Altruism characterises most of our everyday interactions. What’s in it for you, when you stop a stranger to let them know they dropped their wallet, when you freely give them directions, or watch their belongings on a beach or at a café? Absolutely nothing! Nothing beyond the intrinsic, automatic urge to help a fellow human. We experienced it with tears and horror when we saw the picture of the dead Syrian child washed ashore on the Turkish beach in the midst of the September 2015 refugee crisis. We desperately wanted to help, but soon felt too insignificant. Some of us shared the picture on social media and wept a little more; some of us donated money here or there, but soon, we moved on to the next Facebook post about dogs, exercise or meals, and resumed our ignorant bliss.
We are people, we can help each other everyday. Don’t choose to look away; do support and look after each other. Over the last 12 months I have been on a ride that I didn’t queue up for. You too could find yourself on a roller coaster at any moment.
Spread the care, it’s ok to not be ok.