Why Mental Wellbeing Should Be A Consideration In The Workplace

October shines a light on mental wellbeing with Mental Health Awareness Week here in New Zealand. Mental health issues have been around for many years, but they have always been a bit of a taboo subject.

Thankfully, that is all starting to change. Slowly, it is becoming more acceptable to have conversations about mental health and discuss how it is impacting our society. Mental health issues are incredibly common. Research has shown that nearly half of our population will meet the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis at some point during their lives.

Traditionally, it has been instilled in many of us that we should leave our personal problems at home – that we can somehow segment our brains to be perfectly healthy between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Of course, this is not how things work in reality. If you are experiencing emotional or mental issues outside of work, they will inevitably impact you at work as well.

Workplaces need to be aware and responsive to individuals experiencing mental health issues. Not only is it in the best interest of the person and the business, but it is also a requirement of Health and Safety legislation.

We all have a part to play in looking after each other and keeping each other safe.

How To Recognise When Someone Needs Help

Mental wellbeing - Signs of mental illness in workplace

It can be difficult to identify someone who is struggling with their mental health. Often they will feel embarrassed and may not want to disclose their issues to anyone, especially not co-workers or managers. They make a lot of effort to seem “normal” and like nothing is wrong. Quite often, their behaviour can be misinterpreted as some sort of performance or behavioural issue and might include:

– turning up late to work

– tiredness or inability to concentrate

– appearing angry or frustrated at work

– avoiding other people

– becoming easily stressed

– taking frequent sick leave

People with mental illnesses are still valuable and important members of your team, but they need to have the right support to feel safe and accepted at work.

How To Encourage And Support Mental Wellbeing At Work

One of the best places to work is somewhere with a supportive environment. There are many ways that you can encourage this kind of positive vibe and mental wellbeing at your workplace.

They are:

Have proper support available – your people managers should be trained in how to support people with mental health concerns. Having information available about professional counselling and therapy services is also essential. Emailing all team members, as well as posters in break rooms and bathrooms, are a great way to make the information visible and accessible in a non-threatening way.

Mental health initiatives – encourage fun activities in the workplace to give everyone a break from the stuffy office routine. October is a great time for this as we observe International Mental Health Awareness Day and New Zealand Mental Health Awareness Week. Workplace wellbeing does not have to involve a lot of money or a lot of fanfare, simple reward and recognition can go a long way.

Create a safe space – make sure there is a zero-tolerance for workplace bullying and harassment. Deal swiftly with any instances of it.

Be flexible
– mental health concerns can be emotionally and physically draining. There will be times when your staff members require extra or extended leave to deal with mental health and stress issues. Make sure you have sufficient flexibility with leave and working arrangements to allow for this. Sometimes flexible working conditions can be just the thing everyone needs to promote team well-being.

Mental wellbeing - Colleagues talking over coffee
Keep talking about it
– check in with your staff regularly. At your regular coaching or one-on-one sessions, ask how they are feeling in regard to their workload. Make sure they aren’t overworked or feeling stressed. If they are, help them by reallocating tasks or getting them extra support.

Look after yourself
– no one is immune to mental illness. If you are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue, please ask for help.

Mental wellbeing is an important consideration in the workplace. There are lots of ways you can help someone that is experiencing mental health issues. Check out our website for more information on how to offer someone practical support.

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