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How To Support Mental Wellbeing At Work

Conversations around workplace mental health and wellbeing have been amplified during the pandemic and thankfully, they’re only getting louder.

Almost 80% of people living with mental health issues reported that the pandemic had directly contributed to a decline in their mental wellbeing. As more companies embrace open dialogue around mental wellbeing at work, they’re building healthy workplace cultures and empowering employees to feel less stigmatised about speaking up about their mental health.

In this article, we look at mental wellbeing in the workplace – how to talk about mental health at work, how to build a wellbeing culture and how investing in employee wellbeing can benefit your business. Plus we’ll share a little bit about how we’ve been looking after each other’s mental wellbeing right here at Float.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 artwork banner

Why is mental wellbeing at work important?

By nurturing a healthy workplace wellbeing culture, you can create the right environment your teams need to be their best selves. A positive environment can help employees be proud of their work and the part they play in making the company collectively successful.

But this can’t happen if your team is struggling. If morale is diminished, productivity will be low and your workplace won’t be an environment your team can thrive in – they need a workplace environment where they can do their best work.

Good wellbeing is good for business

Promoting and investing in a mentally healthy workplace not only has a positive benefit for your employees, it can also have a positive effect on your business performance too.

At any one time, almost one in seven employees will be experiencing anxiety, depression or problems relating to stress in the workplace, according to statistics from the Mental Health Foundation. So it’s not surprising that companies that invest in supporting positive mental health see better engagement and productivity from their teams than those that don’t. The ONS reported that mental health was one of the four main reasons for sickness absence in the UK in 2020 – and this was not just a by-product of the pandemic, mental health has been a reason for sickness absence in a high percentage over the past decade.

A study by Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health shows that in the UK, companies can save up to £8 billion per year by providing effective mental health support for their employees. This indicates that companies that invest in risk assessment and care programmes for their employees are projected to have better net profits.

Promoting wellbeing at work through personalised information and advice, a risk-assessment questionnaire, seminars, workshops and web-based materials will cost approximately £80 per employee per year.

 

For a company with 500 employees, where all employees undergo the intervention, it is estimated that an initial investment of £40,000 will result in a net return of £347,722 in savings, mainly due to reduced presenteeism (lost productivity that occurs due to an employee working while ill) and absenteeism (missing work due to ill health).

 

Statistics from The Mental Health Foundation

How we’re promoting wellbeing at Float

At Float, we put our people first. They’re at the heart of everything in the business. Caring for our people, pandemic or no pandemic, has always been important to us and we strive to put a human connection into everything we do.

Maintaining good mental health means different things to different people – some focus on physical wellbeing to impact their mental state, while others focus on emotional or social wellbeing to look after their mental health. At Float, we recognised very early on that by supporting the mental wellbeing of our people, we can run a compassionate, inclusive and successful business.

So how do we make sure we work in a healthy environment with an open and supportive attitude to workplace wellbeing?

We use a remote mental health resource called Spill where people can ask therapists private questions or book one-to-one video therapy sessions. If you’re using Slack like us, to keep your teams connected, Spill integrates in just three clicks.

Donut also gives us a chance to be remotely social and connect with colleagues for virtual coffee. Without an office coffee machine or a water cooler to chat over, this is especially helpful to catch up with team members you don’t normally work with directly or bump into naturally in an office environment. We’ve also signed up for a company subscription to Headspace for people to use for meditation sessions, healthy sleep habits and everyday mindfulness.

We also use weekly all-company meetings to keep our communication channels open and to share conversations, updates and team celebrations company-wide each week.

Last summer our CEO Colin also organised a surprise for the whole team – a fresh fruit and veg box delivered right to our doorsteps! Helping us keep our bodies healthy, so we can look after our minds too.

Here’s Jen Given, COO at Float to tell you more.

 

How to build a workplace wellbeing culture

Normalise mental health conversations

Having open, honest conversations about mental health can’t be encouraged enough. Despite modern employers beginning to break down the stigma of mental health issues in the workplace, there’s still a long way to go to make it a topic people feel comfortable talking about – especially when it comes to talking about it with their manager.

Unfortunately, the fear of opening up about mental wellbeing to an employer is still very real. In a 2020 paper by Deloitte, Paul Farmer, CEO of mental health charity Mind, reported that only 49% of employees felt comfortable talking to their line manager about their mental health. The landscape is changing positively, but mental health can still be a taboo subject.

Create a comfortable, safe space for active conversations around mental health and wellbeing, and offer an open-door policy for people to come and talk through any issues they’re having.

For example:

• Foster a culture where people check in with each other – give space in team meetings for everyone to share how they are doing. This can help everyone recognise signs that someone might be struggling sooner, rather than later

• Offer regular one-to-ones and use conversation prompts that give people the opportunity to reflect and share about their personal wellbeing, not just their work lives

• Really listen – when someone chooses to be open about their wellbeing, take the time to listen. Be mindful that it might be difficult for them

It’s ok to request time off

Many of us throughout our lives will experience physical health issues, from getting the flu to breaking a bone. For those things, it’s deemed acceptable to request time off to recuperate. The same should apply to recovering from mental health issues.

Studies by a university mental health foundation* found that almost 50% of people suffering from physical health problems were also experiencing depression, but they were more concerned about informing their employer about their mental health issues than about serious physical conditions such as cancer or heart disease.

De-stigmatising mental health problems by giving them the same weight as physical ailments will go a long way to showing your team that they’re in an environment where they can talk openly about their health.

Two illustrated people chatting over coffee at a desk

Check in with yourself regularly

As a business owner, your performance, your relationships and your ability to support others can suffer if you’re not looking after your own mental wellbeing. Check in with yourself if you’re feeling under pressure or if you feel like you’re not coping. Try to identify if there are things in your daily life that are stressors, either at work or at home and work on strategies on how to cope with them or reduce them to manageable levels.

A 2020 study by Gallup found business owners reported significant increases in daily stress levels when comparing their experiences pre-COVID-19 to during the pandemic. 25% of business owners said their mental health had gotten worse since the start of the pandemic.

According to the study, 47% of men questioned said they worried daily during the pandemic, compared to 35% who worried daily pre-pandemic. But the increase in daily worry was even more stark for female business owners, increasing from 33% pre-pandemic, to 60% worrying every day during the pandemic.

Check in with colleagues

Learn how to spot when someone is struggling or maybe not engaging properly. Knowing what responsibilities or stress a colleague has in and out of the workplace can help you build a better picture of how to support them. Be human – social connections are important for promoting wellbeing and can actively reduce mental ill-health.

Everyone in your team will have a different relationship with their workplace. For instance, people will be coping with the pandemic disruptions differently. Some feel entirely comfortable with the level of interaction they get from communicating over chat or video calls, but for some people, working remotely can be lonely. If you can, reach out for a coffee catch up or a lunchtime break together – you never know when someone might need it.

“We all wear an invisible backpack. You can never tell how light or heavy someone else’s pack might feel on any particular day. That’s why it’s important to foster a workplace where everyone feels comfortable sharing their load. Being vulnerable takes courage and, often, that only comes when you see others setting an example.”

 

Rebecca Gravestock, General Manager Global People Experience, Xero

Practise self-care and set boundaries

It’s okay to say no. Be honest about your capacity and how much you can take on. We all have periods when we need to meet hard deadlines and work flat-out to get projects over the line – but not to the detriment of our mental wellbeing. Look at your workload, break it down into doable chunks and try to prioritise the things that absolutely can’t wait and identify the things that can.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed everything can feel like it needs to be done yesterday, but when you take a closer look, chances are there are things that can be paused or rescheduled. You can’t do everything, and being overwhelmed will only have a negative impact on your wellbeing and your work.

“Ask for help if you’re feeling the pressure. You might not know what you need – but your team might be experiencing something similar and might be able to help.” Colin Hewitt, CEO, Float.

Switch off and disconnect

Whether you’re back in the office or plan to continue working from home, separating work from leisure is essential. So much so, that ministers in the UK are advocating for an addition to the employment bill that gives home-working employees the ‘right to disconnect’. This would give employees a legal right to completely disconnect outside of contracted work hours – no emails, no phone calls, just complete autonomy to switch off. Both France and Ireland have already passed similar policies and Canada is currently investigating their own.

“I feel like I am living from work rather than working from home,” – quote from anonymous Guardian survey

Working overtime or longer hours than required has become an issue for many people as a result of working from home. The use of digital tools, apps and video platforms has given us new flexibility in the way we work and communicate but as a result, the lines between work and personal time have become blurred. Without that commute home to change your focus or a meet-up with friends after work to create a mental separation from the office, our professional lives are seeping into our personal ones. Burnout is real – you need to know when to take time out.

Illustrated person sitting at a desk with zen hand

Minimise distractions

Let’s face it, the world can be LOUD. You might not even realise it but there are things in your everyday surroundings that could be causing you to feel stressed or anxious. Reducing disturbances in your workplace or your working-from-home set-up can significantly reduce stress and irritation. Email pings, smartphones, chatter and background noise could be adding to your stress levels while you’re trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Eliminating the things that are distracting you will help you focus and increase productivity.

Provide the right resources

Equipping employees with the tools they need to look after themselves and support other people is essential to maintaining your team’s wellbeing. By investing in team training, such as e-learning, virtual training or face-to-face sessions through charities like Mind, you can make sure that people in the workplace know how to support each other.

Rather than simply ‘raising awareness’ around mental wellbeing, put solid, actionable mental health policies in place. That way teams know what resources and processes your company has, and remember to make it clear how they can get access.

Remember, you’re not alone

Keep in mind, you’re not alone if you feel like you’re struggling. We’re humans, not machines, and things can sometimes go wrong. Share how you feel with like-minded colleagues, family or friends – they may be feeling something similar. Try to stay present and learn to identify when reaching out to others might be a good idea for you.

 

People want to work for companies that look after them. By normalising conversations around mental health, building a strong culture of wellbeing and self-care and having solid mental wellbeing policies in place, you can actively support employees to thrive.

Here are some resources that might be helpful to start or enhance your own journey.

Workplace wellbeing training
Workplace wellbeing course by CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)
Wellness action plan template
Mental health factsheet
Adult mental health first aid course
How mental wellbeing is good for your bottom line – downloadable guide
Samaritans

 

Footnotes:
* Study by Loughborough University / Mental Health Foundation, 2009

 

Further reading:

Remote Working Is Here To Stay: How Will Your Small Business Adapt?

 

Stevie Watson

How many open tabs is too many? Owns a cactus or ten. Is all about the content. Senior Content Marketer at Float 🤓