Addressing mental health in the workplace needs to include a change in the environment and the behaviour of employers and employees. The first, and most important, step is making everyone understand that mental health is supportive, and assists employees to thrive. It also needs to be practical and easily accessible for everyone. Mental health in the workplace needs to be an everyday engagement. It loses its traction and purpose when it’s a random act.
Here are some ways employers and employees can address mental health in the workplace.
1. The employer
- The most important thing an employer can do is to offer regular free, online courses on stress management, time management, conflict management, coping skills, or resilience building. These courses will assist employees to build their mental stamina and skills.
- Offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), where employees can get professional support from counsellors, psychologists, coaches, and mentors. EAP is an employee benefit programme provided by external suppliers who are professionals but have no association with the company. This means that employee anonymity and confidentiality is protected, as employees may use EAP for discussions about personal trauma.
- Offer free or subsidised professional services. These can be with psychologists or coaches who can support employees to develop a mental health mindset.
- Offer relaxation spaces where employees can find moments of reflection and quiet time. These environments need to be tranquil spaces, where employees are encouraged to unwind and de-stress for a while.
- Implement monthly well-being days for employees to engage in self-care and conscious rest and recovery. These days are not to be used for working, and are also not deducted from annual leave. Let them know that it’s a bonus day!
- Employers can invest in online apps that assist employees to keep track of their working day, and encourage them to breathe, take breaks, drink water, and move around.
2. The employee
- Take regular breaks every 90 minutes, and a substantial lunch break. If you need to schedule these into your calendar to prevent meetings being scheduled, then do so. Performance and productivity can only be sustained with regular breaks.
- Develop self-care practices that completely relax your mind and body. Use the tool that works best for you. Common ones are deep breathing, closing your eyes for threeminutes and consciously relaxing your body, power meditations, playing computer games, going for a walk, listening to a 20-minute podcast, phoning a friend, playing with your animals, or stretching your body.
- Relationships are paramount to our mental health, and the social connections spill over into your moods, emotions, actions, and thinking. See if you can go to the office at least once a week to meet your colleagues, have team meetings in person, or schedule get-togethers with your family and friends. The key focus is to minimise social isolation and withdrawal.
- As difficult and tempting as it is, you need to control your calendar, and minimise back-to-back digital meetings. Schedule time for meetings, and uninterrupted time to work on tasks and projects. The sense of being in control, being productive, and coping with yourwork enriches your mental well-being.
- Participate in courses and activities offered by your employer, and learn mental health skills. Learning and growing yourself will contribute to your confidence, self-efficacy, and,in turn, your mental health.
- Identify colleagues who you trust and can openly share your emotions, frustrations, and concerns with. We all need someone who listens to us without judgement and doesn’t try to solve situations, but who can hold space for us.
Here are some key points on how to address mental health in the workplace.
- Make mental health practice an everyday activity.
- Employers and employees need to work on mental health in the workplace collectively.
- Employers can create the environment.
- Employees have to take the responsibility of making use of the offerings.