According to research conducted by Mind, stress has caused 21% of employees to call in sick, 42% to consider resigning and 14% to actually leave their job. Creating a positive work environment that supports employee wellbeing should be a critical concern for every organisation, and we employees can also take steps to improve our wellbeing at work.
With this in mind, we’ve put together the following tips, for both leaders and employees, to help improve workplace wellbeing:
Get the Work/Life Balance Right
We all have times when we need to work overtime, but try to make this the exception rather than the norm. Long hours mean you may be working harder, but not better and this will quickly take its toll on your concentration, productivity and health.
If you’re working from home, try to create clear boundaries between work and home. If possible, designate a separate area for work and stick to it. If you don’t have a home office or spare room to work from at home, try to tidy away your work equipment at the end of each day so you’re not tempted to log on out of work hours.
While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. Make sure that outside of work you are prioritising the activities or hobbies that make you happy. Research shows that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood, and depression.
Encourage Open Conversations
It’s important that we create a workplace where conversations about mental health are normalised. Managers should find space at the start of each meeting to ask employees how they are, and having a team chat where everyone checks in daily can also help encourage staff to open up.
Emberson Group have launched a new initiative called Walks and Talks where team members are invited to go for a walk and chat informally; this gives staff a great opportunity to get some fresh air, exercise and get to know each other better. Why not implement something similar in your organisation?
And if you’re concerned about someone at your workplace, ask how they are in a warm and authentic way to encourage them to share how they’re feeling. Let them explain how they are in their own words, and ask open and non-judgmental questions such as “How long have you felt like this?” or “Have you felt this way before?”.
Take Proper Breaks
In 2019, a study of remote employees by HubSpot found that only 1 in 3 took an hour long lunch break, with 1 in 4 eating at their desk. Taking a break from work increases our focus when we return to work, and helps to relieve stress.
Movement breaks are also beneficial for emotional and physical health; try to get out of the workplace on your lunch break, factoring in some movement such as a brisk walk or a short yoga sequence.
You’re legally entitled to certain breaks during the day and working week: Gov.uk has more information.
Support Remote-Working Staff
While some of us may love the convenience of working from home, others may feel isolated. Communication is extra important for those who are working from home in order to find out how they’re coping.
Informal catch-ups between team members, like virtual coffee breaks, can increase intimacy and trust, while for new team members it can be helpful to allocate them a buddy.
Regular one-to-ones with line managers also gives remote employees an opportunity to communicate if they are struggling.
Wind Down From Work
If you commute, it’s a really good idea to use the journey after work as an opportunity to unwind; try reading a book, listening to a podcast, or getting off the bus a stop earlier to walk.
If you’re working from home, why not also go for a short walk to help switch off after work and bring a sense of routine to your day?
Resist the urge to check work emails in the evening. Research shows that people who use tablets or smartphones in the hours before bedtime take longer to fall asleep and this can be especially true for reading work emails that may induce stress. Try instead to read a book or practice meditation to help you unwind from the day (Calm have some great guided meditations on their app).
Signpost Employees to Further Support
It’s important that we all know where to find further support in the workplace if we need it. In addition to line management support, there should be wider support put in place across your organisation; this could be via your employee assistance programme, through HR, or through your Mental Health Champions or Mental Health First Aiders.
Why not display who your workplace Mental Health First Aiders are on the staff noticeboard, or include web-links for mental health support in your internal newsletters?
Ask For Help
It can be hard to talk about feelings at work. If you have colleagues you can talk to, or a manager who asks how you are at supervision sessions, it can really help.
Your employer may have an employee assistance programme; these services are confidential and can be accessed for free. You may also be able to access occupational health support through your line manager or HR service.
Opening up about how you feel at work, especially if you are a leader, will encourage others to do the same and help create a workplace where conversations about mental health are normalised.
If you don’t feel able to talk about feelings at work, make sure there’s someone else you can discuss work pressures with such as your partners, friends or family.
Here at Bath Mind, we can support your organisation and employees through our various mental health and wellbeing training courses:
Mental Health First Aid empowers employees to notice signs of mental ill health, listen in a non-judgemental way, and signpost others to support for recovery.
Our Wellbeing in the Workplace scheme is a specialised programme that provides professional mental health and wellbeing support that is tailored to your organisation.