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Promoting good mental health in the workplace can have a tremendous impact in an organisation. Anxiety, depression and other issues related to mental health in some countries are increasingly on the rise and companies have the opportunity to positively influence and demonstrate support. The New Economics Foundation, a charity whose agenda is to build an economy where people really take control of their own lives, gave 5 ways to better wellbeing:
Social relationships are vital for our wellbeing. When we add value (whether that is through leading a project, offering our own insight or just bringing a talent to the team), feel valued (appreciated and thanked, for example) and bring positive contributions, we feel better. Connection is one of the fundamental humans needs. A great example of fostering connection is to stop writing unnecessary emails – go over to your colleague and talk to them instead. The face-to-face interaction, even if brief, allows for us to see facial expressions, hear the tone of voice and attain a better understanding of a situation. One of the reasons emails fill us with anxiety is because they often represent a demand of your time and energy and can distract from your job at hand. Those demands can pile up. To truly foster this connection, a great method is turning off your email or just checking it at periodic times of the day. Being a little less connected can help us a long way in feeling more connected to those around us. Next time you take a coffee break, spark up a conversation with someone in the kitchen. Ask them how their weekend was and really listen. These few little steps at work can help bring you to a better place mentally.
Anxiety and stress are difficult to remove from our work lives but not entirely impossible and certainly can we all reduce the amounts we feel. When you accept that there will be days where you feel more stress and anxiety than others, it will be easier to manage it. One of the biggest problems surrounding anxiety and stigma is that even the simplest of things can feel too much. Knowing and accepting that this is a normal part of anxiety will help to ease the burden. A good example of managing stress and anxiety in the work place is to exercise (in and out of the office). If you take the metro to work and find that it is always crowded, puts you in a bad mood and starts your day negatively, simply get off a stop early and walk the rest of the journey. PageGroup’s Transport & Commute survey recently revealed that commuters all over Europe who use a bicycle or walk to work experience the least amount of stress during their commute and arrive to work feeling less stressed than those who opt to take a car or public transport. Don’t use public transport? No problem – take the stairs to your desk, dedicate half your lunch break to walking around and getting some fresh air and feel those endorphins change your mood. Working on your mental health doesn’t require a drastic lifestyle changes but a few small, simple steps can make all the difference.
In a fast paced world where urgency is the new normal, we can sometimes lose sight of ourselves. Reflection and self-awareness help us to understand our emotions and gives us time to really address them. Studies have shown that when we are aware of what is happening and why, we gain a greater perspective and this helps us to reaffirm our choices and purpose. Daniel Siegel, an eminent clinical psychiatrist said on self-awareness: “When someone is aware of how feelings affect his reasoning, thinking, and ways of interacting with other people—he has self-awareness. This is one component of emotional intelligence. And we know that there are circuits in the brain that allow you to be aware of your mental world that are distinct from the circuits that allow you to be aware of your physical world.” Giving ourselves the time to be more self-aware informs our reasoning, our thinking and our ways of interacting with other people. So take your time. Take a different route to work or visit a new place for lunch and savour the moment and allow yourself time to reflect on things without the unnecessary urgency. Our 24/7 connected world isn’t the easiest place to be, so practicing a little mindfulness for the mundane everyday tasks is a great way to help us feel calmer, more relaxed and more able to enjoy the moment that we’re in while at the same time gaining the ability to better understand the people around us and our work environment.
While mindfulness and connecting with our colleagues and environment is important for our mental health, it is also beneficial continue to learn. No one knows everything, not even experts. If we dedicate our time to learning, it gives us a greater sense of purpose in the world and if we are able to apply what we have learnt in meetings, discussions or in our own roles at work, we feel more fulfilled. Susan Wallace in her book Teaching, Tutoring and Training in the Lifelong Learning Sector noted that lifelong learning can bring us satisfaction, an improved coping mechanism for stress and raises our self-esteem. This doesn’t have to mean a return to university or gaining a qualification – there are plenty of ways to learn something new or improve on your knowledge already. DIY projects, learning to cook, taking up a new hobby, fixing your bicycle or even signing up to a language learning course can all add to our repertoire of skills but more importantly fill us with a greater sense of wellbeing and achievement.
While mental health is becoming more prevalent in society and in the work place, employees, managers, directors and CEOs understand the need to have proper provisions in place to address those concerns. More talent is being brought into business, such as Talent Development Managers, who are able to recognise the warning signs of workers’ stress, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, PageGroup has become one of the first recruiters to sign up a mental health stigma pledge, Time to Change, which is an initiative led by the aforementioned charity Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. 450 other companies have followed suit and are committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental health, leading to the creation of Ability@Page, which seeks to raise awareness, develop training, and remove barriers and encourage positive conversation around mental health. In the past these distressing issues would have gone unnoticed and led to a dearth of productivity and absenteeism. As society becomes more aware and accepting of these issues, especially as more and more people begin to find their voice, end the silent suffering and talk about the issues which affect them, work places will undergo truly positive transformation. This transformation will undoubtedly lead to a more mentally healthy workforce that is productive, happy and ultimately more able to manage levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
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