It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Hosted and promoted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year the theme is nature. While not a panacea for all mental health issues, several studies have found that connecting with nature can help improve mental wellbeing.
In this post, we’ll look at what employers and their staff can do to make for a happier, healthier working life.
Employers and Mental Health
A healthy, contented workforce needs investment and research. Good intentions without implementation and investment run the risk of becoming mere lip service.
Here are ways in which companies can invest in employee wellbeing.
Time and Mental Health
Time has always been a priceless commodity, but this past year has really highlighted our relationship with it. For some, free time has been vaporized, with childcare options diminishing while work tasks haven’t slowed down. For others, time took on a different shape, as we’ve had to find more ways to spend our spare time with so many options closed.
However, regardless of personal circumstances, everyone can do with more time off. That’s why AutoEntry gave its staff three additional paid days specifically for mental health. Employees were encouraged to use this time to relax, look after themselves, and not to use it for chores, work or errands.
Keeping with the nature theme, most AutoEntry employees chose to reconnect with nature on their wellbeing days.
This has become easier to provide as remote working has become more mainstream. Rigidity when it comes to clocking in and out, or being present, can be needless forms of stress for employees. More flexible hours and conditions mean less stress for workers.
Investing in Listening
Listening can take a number of forms. Firstly, your workplace and line managers should make it easy for staff to check in and voice concerns or problems. Foster a culture of communication.
Additionally, many employers now subsidise counselling. Juggling work and personal obligations, combined with the added stress of a pandemic, takes its toll. But counselling can be expensive or have a long waiting list.
Many employers invest in and promote counselling services. This has two benefits; they provide the resource for those who need it, and it also helps to destigmatize it.
Workers and Mental Health
It’s only in recent years that we’ve started talking about mental health the way we talk about physical health. Now, we talk more openly about working on it, maintaining it and seeing a professional for assistance.
We can’t prescribe surefire ways to prevent anxiety, stress or other issues, but we have found some things that have worked for us. For instance...
Make time for nature
As alluded to above, nature is immensely therapeutic. A survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that being in green spaces was one of the most popular things to do for stress reduction.
A wonderful thing about nature is that it’s relatively cheap: all you need is a park, a beach or a forest.
Again, this is not a cure-all, but exercise helps with sleep, generates serotonin in a natural way and (maybe paradoxically) gives you energy.
Exercise benefits your circulation, your muscles and your heart. But you might not have heard that it also helps to generate new brain cells - a process known as neurogenesis.
We know it can be hard to maintain a sleep pattern in today’s demanding world. Additionally, screen addiction and its accompanying FOMO can keep you from going to bed at a timely hour.
But switching off your phone an hour before bedtime and aiming for 8 hours sleep can do wonders for you. We’ve all experienced the grouchiness and fatigue that a bad night’s sleep can bring, and the pep and good humour that good sleep provides.
There’s science to back that up: Mental health challenges can hinder sleep; and bad sleep can contribute to these issues. And studies have found that deep sleep can help with emotional stability.
Finally, try to make time to talk to friends and family about any issues you might have. You might think that they have enough to deal with themselves, but they will want to help.
Again, only in recent years have we learned to open up and express our anxieties. If you’re not comfortable discussing mental health issues with friends and families, consider reaching out to counselling services. The world is filled with people who are glad that they opened up and started sharing their concerns.
Mental Health - a team effort
Mental health is an ongoing concern for every single one of us. While there is no silver bullet to address all related issues, employers can invest in making their workplace a healthier place to be.