Improving mental health in the workplace is a huge issue across the country. As well as having a massive impact on individual employees, there are also significant repercussions for employers. High staff turnover, an increase in sickness absence and a loss of productivity can all be attributed to poor mental health. In fact, 72 million working days were lost last year through poor mental health and the combined effect of all of this currently costs the UK economy £34.9bn per year.
Whilst businesses and organisations of all sizes are increasingly addressing mental health in the workplace, many still do not feel confident doing so.
Recognising the scale of the issue, italk - the free psychological therapies service delivered in partnership between Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Solent Mind - have a number of top tips to improve wellbeing at work.
And, with the number of working days lost to stress, anxiety and depression increasing by 24% in the last 6 years, the service now offers workshops specially designed for businesses and organisations to help them improve staff wellbeing and better deal with mental health issues in the workplace.
Jessica Laithwaite and Alexandra Davison are Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners from italk who are involved in running the specialist italk@work workshops for businesses, which focus on staff wellbeing.
Talking about the importance of wellbeing at work, Alexandra said:
“Managing your own mental health or that of your workforce doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact the NHS recommend five steps that you can do which can go a long way to improving your wellbeing and that of your staff.
- Keep active – Regular exercise is as good for stress, anxiety and depression as some anti-depressants. When you are at work try taking a walk at lunch, taking the stairs more or parking further away than normal.
- Be mindful – We are very good and ruminating on things that have happened or worrying about things that might (or might not) happen in the future. Taking time to stop and notice the here and now is a great way of focussing on the present.
- Give to others – Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we have to do that we forget the people around us. Simple gestures like making a cup of tea for your colleagues or offering to help with a piece of work when they are struggling can go a long way.
- Keep learning – Doing something new or learning a new skill is a great way of focussing on something other than work, it can also be a great way to widen your social circle and make new friends.
- Connect – We are social creatures and whilst some people enjoy this more than others, we all need to interact and engage with people and the world around us. Make sure you take the time to do this with your friends or family in the way that works for you.
“Recent figures suggest one in five people will take a day off work due to stress and almost a quarter of people have considered resigning due to stress. So ensuring we create the right environment at work is really important.”
Everyone is likely to experience stress in the workplace. However, it is important to remember that the more stressed we get, the more we withdraw and the more we withdraw, the more likely we are to cut out the things we enjoy. Without the positive things we use to give us a good work life balance we can become overwhelmed. This can eventually lead to the development of more serious problems such as anxiety and depression.
Jessica added: “Numerous studies have shown that being in work often leads to better mental health, self-esteem and well-being. Whilst the five steps won’t prevent you from ever feeling stressed, they are a great way of looking after your wellbeing. Keeping them in mind is a great way of ensuring you stay well at work and improving the wellbeing of the people you work with.
“However, we also know that sometimes things outside of work can affect our concentration and performance. This can lead to difficulties at work so at italk we have specialist employment advisors who are open to anyone currently accessing treatment with us. They can provide a range of services including; One to one support, advice around your rights at work, mediation between you and your employer and helping with adjustments in your work place.”