Mental health has been a taboo for such a long time, people don’t want to talk about it. With many of us having it instilled into us to automatically answer “I’m fine” every time we’re are asked, without even a split-second thought to whether we actually are or not.
In fact, in reality with such busy lives, we don’t have time to listen to how difficult someone else’s day is – especially if it is potentially making ours more challenging in the process. We want to help break that cycle and nowadays a much healthier focus is being given to mental health and just how many of us it affects on a daily basis, it’s finally becoming ok to not be ok.
Millions of businesses around the UK celebrated mental health awareness week from the 13th May to the 19th May, declaring various ways of fundraising and promoting awareness all for a much-needed cause, but what about when the hype calms down again? How mentally healthy are we in between these important awareness days? How much do we practise what we preach?
Mental health difficulties can affect anyone from any walk of life, there is no one group protected by ethnicity, age, gender or economic status, we are all at risk of becoming affected. If not directly through ourselves, then possible through the people we care about. We live in a day and age where technology influences our lives from the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to sleep. It’s crazy to think children under 10 now own the latest smartphone and have access to the world wide web 24 hours a day. Families can stay in touch, despite being thousands of miles from one another and talk over different time zones through video calling. We are served images and news from remote areas across the world, shown hidden cultures from places that we could only ever dream of visiting and whilst all of these things are amazing, it places a huge burden on a society that is unable to ‘switch off’.
According to mental health charity Mind, around 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. With growing shortages of mental health support across the NHS and the number of people facing mental health difficulties as part of their daily lives is growing, putting more pressure onto an already underfunded and stretched health system. Which is why it’s even more important we look to help each other where we can.
- 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them
- 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’
- 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance
Source: Mind, Taking care of your staff
What does this mean in the workplace?
A salary and career survey conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) found that the average British worker will devote 3,507 days to their job during their lifetime. Given that the average lifespan in the UK is about 30,000 days, the average worker is spending over 10% of their lives in the office – This is a surprisingly high figure and places responsibility back on the employer to ensure that the workplace is a mentally and physically healthy place to be. We all know we’re more productive when we’re happy, relaxed and comfortable, so do yourself and your employees a favour and make your workplace somewhere they want to be.
A HSE Censuswide survey reveals that 15.4 million working days were lost in 2017/18 relating to anxiety and depression. This is 12.5 million up from the previous year which equates to 57% of the 26.8 million workdays lost to ill health, and 81% of UK office workers spend between four to nine hours sitting at their desks each day, equating to an average of 67 sedentary days per year.
“The impact our jobs have on our lives spreads far beyond the workplace”Rachel Kellett, Association of Accounting Technicians (ATT)
Similarly, in a survey conducted by Fellowes, almost half of the 1250 office workers questioned said they sat at their desks for between six to nine hours daily. Whilst 36% claimed they spent four to six hours seated. A huge 64% also claimed their office environment had a negative impact on their health.
Despite British workers spending a considerable proportion of time sitting at work, the poll found that almost half said their employers didn’t offer the necessary tools and equipment to make them feel comfortable at their desks. More shockingly, the same percentage of people said they didn’t think their employer cared about their health and wellbeing in the workplace. This is what needs to change.
How can I support the wellbeing of my employees?
Get everybody on board
Wellbeing is everybody’s responsibility and employers need to lead by example, by promoting a companywide wellbeing policy you are setting the benchmark. It’s likely that your workforce is already feeling the pressure of their workload without you introducing yet another policy which may result in them having to do more work or shift their priorities – show that it is at the heart of your business by practising what you preach.
Not everybody knows how to access mental health support or that irts even available. Make it integral to your business, give your employers information which promotes a healthy lifestyle and the local services that they can access and consider making it part of your employment package or include it in your business statement. Perhaps assign a mental health champion or promote awareness days, have posters in common places that suggest avenues of support and have accessible resources available for the whole company no matter what their job title is.
Make it integral to your business processes
Include well being at work as part of your workplace culture, ensure that every new employee adds to this and understands that you think their physical and mental health is important, include it in your processes and make it part of your induction. Arrange regular check in’s as part of your support package and include segments in your staff meetings to discuss topical themes or invite guest speakers. Encouraging a healthy work life balance is essential to increase productivity, performance, creativity and morale. Encourage employees to take regular and full breaks, work scheduled hours where possible and to use their annual leave to recoup and re-energise.
Make use of support services
There are many local mental health support agencies, depending on your location, and there are also many well known national agencies such as Mind, Time to Change, Anxiety UK, Mental health Foundation, Rethink and Samaritans – this list is not exhaustive and you can find more amazing support agencies on the mental health section of the NHS website. Numerous local councils now have health and wellbeing schemes that also address workplace wellbeing – Keep reading to see how Brave Little Tank is supporting its staff, and why we were awarded the silver wellbeing award by Medway Council.
Who better to understand what mental health support is needed than the people you are trying to support. Show your employees that your interest in their mental health is sincere and not lip service, so feedback from your employees is as crucial as it is from your customers but if you don’t act on it, it is rendered useless. Listen to your employees, check in with them regularly and schedule reviews for any issues raised and try to deal with challenges as they arise and promote an open culture of discussion in the workplace. Check that your staff know who to speak when needed but ensure that this line of communication is open for anyone needed mental health support too.
Assess your environment
Look around you. Does the workplace itself promote a healthy working environment, do your staff have the necessary equipment or tools for their job or do they identify any barriers to being able to just crack on? Do they feel appropriately trained for what you expect from them and are they as comfortable as possible in the space they work in. It’s often the small things that drive us crazy because they are there day in day out and we never find the time to resolve them as they are not high up enough on our list to divert our attention. Ironically, these tend to be small niggly things that can be easily and quickly fixed with a small amount of time and effort – can you identify any quick resolutions that can improve the workplace?
So how does BLT support staff?
We are proud to say that we are an active member of the Medway Council healthy workplace scheme
As an intentionally small design agency, each member of staff within Brave Little Tank is integral to the daily functioning of our business, they add value to our business and are the formula for our success. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to boast 6 years of business and positive working relationships with the likes of Trulawn and Telenor Satellite.
Starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficultMind
We have our own first hand experiences with mental health and are aware of the social taboos around this, so we are proud to demonstrate our commitment to the health and well-being of our staff. In April 2019, Brave Little Tank was assessed for Healthy Workplaces scheme in partnership with Medway Council and was awarded a silver award for the policies and implementation of wellbeing within the workplace. The framework takes into account guidance of best practice from Public Health England, Business in the Community and NICE (looks at leadership, culture and communication, health and safety and the following health and wellbeing topics: Managing Absence and Turnover, Musculoskeletal and Screening, Mental Wellbeing and Stress, Stop Smoking, Alcohol and Substance Misuse, Healthy Eating and Healthy Weight, Physical Activity and Active Travel, Environment and Sustainability).
A basic bronze award is for under 15 points of the assessment completed. Following employee interviews and a workplace assessment, not only did our staff report a good work life balance, we achieved our Silver level of award and a total of 26 pledges across all themes of the Medway Workplace Wellbeing Award – just 4 pledges away from gold! Of course we are always aiming for the best and have been grateful for the constructive advice given to help us to achieve this!
For a wealth of information on how to support yourself and your staff, check out the Mind website which offers free resources, training courses and wellbeing booklets and wellness action plans to get you started.
The Mind Infoline can help you to find out what services are available in your area.
You can call them on 0300 123 3393, email firstname.lastname@example.org or text 86463. They are open 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday or find out if there is a local Mind near you here.
Rethink Mental Illness
Founded 40 years ago through voluntary groups for people affected by mental illness, Rethink Mental Illness have over 100 groups in England.
Samaritans provide emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the UK