It’s estimated that almost 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace. According to HSE, in 2019/20 there were an estimated 828,000 employees affected by work-related stress, depression, or anxiety, and this is only expected to rise as the long-lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to surface.
In this article, we outline some of the key ways to look after your mental health at work, with tips for both employers and employees on how you can look after your work colleagues as well as yourself…
Especially when working remotely, it’s easy to stay at your desk all day. Exercising regularly is good for mental health and also helps improve concentration, sleep, and productivity. The NHS recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. You can achieve this by going for a 20-minute walk every day in your lunch break or after work to help you switch off.
As an employer, you could encourage staff to keep active by organising activities such as fitness competitions, for example by giving a prize to employees who do the most steps every month. This is a really simple thing you can do to keep everyone moving.
A recent survey found that 67% of workers who began working from home during the pandemic felt less connected to their colleagues than they did when working in the office. Not only can this have a negative impact on mental health, but it can also decrease motivation, productivity, and collaboration. Find ways to stay connected with your colleagues, even if it’s just a quick call every week to check in and see how everyone’s doing personally as well as professionally.
As an employer, you can help your employees stay connected by making work more collaborative, or by organising more social activities to help your team maintain a good social connection too.
Maintain a Good Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult during busy periods but is also something that has a big impact on your mental health. If you’re working from home, try to stick to a schedule with your meals, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and get away from your desk to eat your lunch.
As an employer, you can make sure that staff have access to healthy snacks when they come into the office or provide a space for workers to share healthy recipes with one another to encourage conversations around healthy eating.
Try Something New
Learning something new can have a positive impact on mental health as it leads to feelings of accomplishment and pride. If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to develop or a hobby you want to pursue, incorporate this learning into your daily routine, for example by setting aside half an hour after work to focus on it.
As an employer, you should encourage your employees to learn by giving them opportunities to take courses, attend workshops, and implement their new skills into their roles. You could also provide extra time to do hobbies by introducing flexible working or the occasional long lunch break.
When you’re feeling stressed or down, it can be hard to remember what you’ve already achieved instead of just focusing on the challenges ahead. Keeping a work diary is a great way of keeping track of your achievements to remind yourself of what you can do.
As an employer, make an effort to celebrate company milestones and achievements with your team. Depending on your budget, this could be anything from sending out a personalised thank you note to employees for their hard work, to planning a nice lunch for every month you hit your sales target.
Giving back can also positively affect mental health. When you can, make an effort to do some local volunteering, or reach out to a colleague who is struggling with their workload and offer a helping hand.
As an employer, you could offer employees paid volunteering leave. Pfizer provides employees up to five days of paid volunteering leave, and actively encourages everyone to get involved, which is a great way for staff to give back whilst learning something new.
Take Regular Breaks
Especially during busy periods, it can be hard to take breaks at work, but it’s important to step away from your desk and have time to switch off.. You could set a timer for every hour to remind yourself to move around, get a drink or snack, step outside for some fresh air, or do a household chore if you’re at home.
As an employer, pay attention to staff who hardly ever leave their desks or who are always online and make sure that they’re looking after themselves.
Having a work life that’s all-consuming can have a negative impact on your mental health. To maintain a good work-life balance, it’s important to set clear boundaries and to stick to them. For example, not letting yourself look at your emails whilst you’re in bed, not eating your lunch at your desk, and not working on your days off unless it’s essential.
You can help your employees set boundaries with their work by encouraging them to leave the office on time, and by looking out for employees who seem to always be online and reaching out with support.
Open Up The Conversation…
Only 56% of people feel comfortable talking about mental health issues in the workplace, and around 300,000 people lose their jobs every year because of long term mental health issues. This is why it’s so important to open up the conversation about mental health in the workplace and to be aware of the issues your colleagues might be facing both inside and outside of work.
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