How to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
Following a recent webinar with mental health campaigner Rob Stephenson, Adam Gates, Head of Odgers Connect, reflects on the key points discussed on how to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
It has been an exceptionally tough year. Our personal and professional lives have been overturned as we continue to do what we can to stay safe while in the midst of a global pandemic. The challenges we have experienced in adapting to a new lifestyle of remote working and socially distant interactions have been difficult to overcome for many. As organisations look to plan in the longer-term for remote working, they must consider the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of their staff alongside the practical and logistical requirements of making the permanent transition out of the office.
To discuss the importance of and how to support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, we asked mental health campaigner Rob Stephenson to join us in hosting a recent webinar. Rob is the founder of the InsideOut LeaderBoard and the CEO of FormScore.
Rob began the discussion by exploring what mental health is. He explained how it is more than the negative reputation we have attached to it with many people thinking mental health and mental illness are interchangeable words. Rather than the negative connotations people generally have with the term mental health, it is actually a continuum where we fluctuate between different states – on one end we can be struggling and disengaged, and on the other we can be thriving and engaged.
Our mental health will naturally shift up and down the continuum in response to a variety of factors. Rob listed sleep, exercise, nutrition, relationships with others, stress management, how we help and support others, our sense of purpose and financial wellbeing as factors which play a role in our fluctuating mental state. However, despite these being external elements of lifestyle, we have power over our mental health. We can use an integrated strategy of having self-awareness, using prevention techniques and having support from those around us to control and manage our mental health.
Rob emphasised the power of being open with others. By sharing how you are feeling and your mental state with others, you are not only increasing your own self-awareness but the awareness of others. Those close to you, whether friends, family or colleagues, can support you through the good and bad days, perhaps offering you the chance to speak about what’s on your mind or reaching out with an uplifting song or photo.
As work can be a large stressor in our lives, especially now many will be experiencing extra stress in both their professional and personal lives as a result of the pandemic, organisations need to focus more on the mental health and wellbeing of staff. In these uncertain times, we need to be aware of the increased risk of burn out and how to identify when someone is struggling. Rob shared with us the eight signs of burnout: exhaustion, illness, detachment, lack of motivation, lack of creativity, pessimism, concentration and reduced performance. Organisations must consider how to put preventative measures in place.
Rob offered the following suggestions for how we can support mental health in the workplace:
Make a personal investment: This doesn’t need to be financial, but it needs to be a commitment to you and your mental health.
Ask 'how are you today?’: Managers should check in with their teams regularly and ask their colleagues to share how they are. This can be done with Rob’s numerical ‘FormScore’ approach where colleagues can use a number from 1-10 to make their colleagues aware of how they are without going into detail if that isn’t what they want to do.
Prioritise mental health in the workplace: Mental health needs to be a topic of discussion at board level. There doesn’t need to be a financial investment but how the organisation will address and prioritise the mental health needs of its employees to be on the agenda of the business leaders.
Role modelling: Business leaders need to ‘walk the walk’ to drive the culture change. This can be done by sharing how they are prioritising their own mental health and the mental health of others.
As we continue to work remotely, it is easy to fall into a transactional culture where employees only communicate as and when work needs to be done. Actions must be taken to mitigate against these adverse working conditions, aiming instead to facilitate a more open and interactive culture where colleagues build relationships with each other and are comfortable discussing and sharing their lives beyond work. Organisations need to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, putting their people first to support them through the change and turmoil we continue to face.
For more information please contact Adam Gates.