This year’s theme is “Mental health in the workplace”. Although it focuses on how to make the workplace better for
everyone, it is an opportunity to, once again, draw attention to mental health issues in our society.
Mental health problems at work are common. At least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.
You might not be talking about it, because mental health is still a taboo subject. And many people feel scared and confused about confronting the issue at work. But there are small, simple steps you can take to look after yourself and make your workplace mentally healthier.
Five ways to wellbeing
The following steps have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation.
There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.
It’s clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.
With this in mind, try to do something different today and make a connection.
- Talk to someone instead of sending an email
- Speak to someone new
- Ask how someone’s weekend was and really listen when they tell you
- Put five minutes aside to find out how someone really is
- Give a colleague a lift to work or share the journey home with them.
Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups.
Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.
But it doesn’t need to be particularly intense for you to feel good – slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.
Today, why not get physical? Here are a few ideas:
- Take the stairs not the lift
- Go for a walk at lunchtime
- Walk into work – perhaps with a colleague – so you can ‘connect’ as well
- Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work
- Organise a work sporting activity
- Have a kick-about in a local park
- Do some ‘easy exercise’, like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
- Walk to someone’s desk instead of calling or emailing.
Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness.
Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.
Heightened awareness also enhances your self-understanding and allows you to make positive choices based on your own values and motivations.
Take some time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you. Here are a few ideas:
- Get a plant for your workspace
- Have a ‘clear the clutter’ day
- Take notice of how your colleagues are feeling or acting
- Take a different route on your journey to or from work
- Visit a new place for lunch.
Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression.
The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.
Why not learn something new today? Here are a few more ideas:
- Find out something about your colleagues
- Sign up for a class
- Read the news or a book
- Set up a book club
- Do a crossword or Sudoku
- Research something you’ve always wondered about
- Learn a new word.
Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research.
Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.
Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.
We spend a significant part of each day at work and much of our lifetime working. Apart from providing us with income to meet our financial needs, studies have shown that being gainfully employed gives life a meaning, helps self-esteem and improves overall quality of life. But the work itself and the environment where it takes place can have a negative impact on us if not managed properly. When employees suffer from mental health issues, this is likely to impair their performance and output at work, it is thus in the interest of the employer to support them to recover as soon as possible and to provide a workplace that foster mental wellbeing.
In Nigeria, there are no data on financial losses to businesses resulting from poor mental health of employees. Estimates from the UK indicate that up to £70 billion pounds is lost annually due to mental ill health and reduced productivity of employees with up to 20 percent of the workforce taking on average, one day off annually because of stress and other mental health related issues. It is obvious that poor mental health of individual employees has significant repercussions for businesses including poor motivation, increased staff turnover, sickness absences due to stress, burnout and exhaustion.
So, what should employers of labours and organisations be doing to provide an enabling working environment for their employees and help employees dealing with mental health issues?