Do you know someone affected by work-related stress, anxiety and depression? The chances are you do as it’s so common, with official UK stats for 2019/20 suggesting 828,000 workers are affected. This equates to an estimated 17.9 million lost working days, and more importantly an unhappy workforce.
Although it’s something many are dealing with it’s surprising how those with anxiety and depression often find very little, or no, support or infrastructure is provided for nurturing their wellbeing and positive mental health. Given this directly affects productivity it would make good economic sense to focus on addressing this. It’s a simple equation, supported by research, a happy workforce = increased productivity and retention.
There are still so many organisations getting this wrong or simply neglecting it completely. If someone reported a fractured leg, they would gain a great amount of sympathy and support, but for a lot of people, there’s still a stigma attached with mental health issues and a tendency to ‘carry on regardless’ for fear of judgement or lack of support.
The elephant in the meeting room
With staff turnover and sick days at an estimated 17.9 million during 19/20, it’s shocking mental health and wellbeing support policies and initiatives are frequently still the elephant in the (meeting) room. What is still needed, especially if businesses post Covid-19 are looking at increasing flexible ways of working, is a comprehensive programme of support for one of their most important assets, the workforce.
If your role is within Occupational Health, HR or you’re in a senior role where you are able to influence and implement change, you might find this helpful for creating a programme to support the wellbeing of staff.
My top five tips for a healthy and happy workforce:
1. Make a case – If you’re looking to gain internal support at a senior level, collect data on absentee patterns and staff turnover during the last three to five years and calculate how many lost hours/days/££ would be saved by investing in initiatives to support wellbeing.
2. Look to develop a programme of wellness initiatives – which will become embedded in company culture. This could include:
- Flexible working hours – According to the charity Mind, flexible hours can allow for a better work-life balance, such as those who struggle with rush hour commuting or childcare. The last point has been further highlighted during Covid-19, and is an especially prevalent issue for women. An ONS survey in 2020 cited women spent on average more than three hours a day on childcare duties during Covid lockdown, compared to two hours for men. So providing flexibility for your workforce will undoubtedly improve their job satisfaction and likelihood of staying in a role longer.
- Highlighting the importance of breaks and break-out spaces – If your staff are in an office or returning post-Covid restrictions, it’s important to provide an area to relax, have lunch, take time out, get away from screens. Some organisations are also now providing sleep pods for staff to take a power nap! Podtime is one such provider.
- Wellness adventures and challenges – It’s important to remember to cater to all staff, not just those who are more physically able. There are lots of ways in which you can engage and enthuse your workforce:
- Weekly yoga/meditation classes/exercise classes – These can be conducted online or face to face! Join me each Wednesday at 6.30pm for my weekly free meditation sessions via Facebook live, alternatively you can watch these back in your own time or visit my YouTube channel for other meditations and relaxation videos).
- Running challenges – Whether this is a 5K, 10K, a marathon or even a walk, the beauty is these can be managed and conducted remotely and it’s a great way of engaging staff and setting challenges.
- Cookery classes – These can be done online, here’s some suggestions: Leith’s School of Food and Wine, School of Wok, Jamie Oliver Cookery School, Class Bento
- Corporate volunteering – Post-Covid, mixing teams up builds interdepartmental relationships and a whole day out, doing something fun makes people feel valued. The National Trust and The Canal River Trust are two good examples.
3. Workplace reward schemes – Company review site ‘Glassdoor’ reports 80% of employees would choose a good benefits package over a pay rise with 60% considering benefits as a major factor when deciding to accept a job. Comprehensive UK scheme providers include:
4. Remote support – If your workforce is working from home, it’s important to ensure workspaces are assessed and individuals are supported to access to the correct equipment to support their role. It’s also vitally important staff are encouraged to take screen breaks remotely. Working from home can be an isolating place, so it’s important one-to-one support is offered to individuals – where ‘check in’ conversations are had, a simple “how are you doing” can make all the difference to someone’s day. Virtual team meet-ups are another great way to keep team morale bubbling along – especially if the team is given a few hours off during an afternoon for this!
5. Harnessing external wellness expertise – Here at Phil Parker Training, we offer comprehensive bespoke packages of consultancy and in-house training for organisations wishing to improve mental health and wellbeing. This can include group leadership coaching, meditation and relaxation sessions and bespoke wellbeing and health programmes such as The Lightning Process.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is to get ‘buy-in’. With all the best will in the world, none of this will work unless senior management are truly bought into the concept of the importance of wellness and mental health support.