The government-commissioned "Thriving at Work" report was recently published, revealing how poor mental health impacts employees and cost businesses £42bn annually. The figures were astounding, stating that 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their jobs each year. The economic case for making changes and improvements to the way in which we deal with mental health is overwhelming. Did you know the number of people forced to stop work due to mental health problems was 50% higher than for those with physical health conditions? Following the report, employers have been urged to put mental health and workplace stress high on their agendas.
Below, we have listed our top tips for improving employee well-being in the workplace and given some examples of what helps our employees thrive instead of struggle at Signify:
Demonstrate you care
Mental health is a complex, largely misunderstood topic; symptoms are not always obvious and in reality most cases of mental illness go undetected, particularly depression and anxiety. It is common for sufferers to generalise and underestimate their symptoms, or hide them from the workplace entirely, through fear of repercussions attached to the stigma around mental health. As an employer, you may fear that you are being intrusive or overstepping the mark, but the reality is noticing symptoms early can make a significant difference to your employee. It’s imperative that employers remain proactive, observant and knowledgeable; lateness, changes in mood, work performance, a dishevelled appearance, or misplaced euphoria may all be indicators of mental illness. There should be a designated trustworthy approachable person within the business, be it the employee’s direct manager or HR. Would your employee know who to turn to in your business? Are you encouraging open conversations about mental health? Do you have regular ‘catch ups’ with employees to allow them the opportunity to raise any problems at an early stage, so they can be addressed before they become a source of stress?
Set goals and help employees achieve them
Employees want and benefit from a clear career path and from using and developing their skills and so does the employer. Learning new skills has been associated with higher levels of health, so set goals regularly and offer training and support on and off the job as required.
Combining work life with personal life: here at Signify every employee sets both work related goals and personal goals and our founder Ryan acts as a mentor with supporting each employee reach their individual goals and accomplish them. There is a great sense of achievement and naturally gives the employee a boost, and having their employer’s support does wonders for their well-being.
Studies have shown that exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on anxiety, ADHD, depression and more. Working out also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. At Signify, most employees have signed up to the gym, and regularly attend together. We are also going down as the whole business, for a boxing session at KOBOX in the next few weeks. Do you encourage exercise in your workplace?
In a time when stress levels and anxiety keep rocketing, maintaining a decent work-life balance is crucial. And a big part of that is tackling the notion of presenteeism; being the first in the office, working through lunch and being the last to leave to prove how hard working you are. Employees aren’t designed to work constantly without any breaks hence why we have lunch breaks in the first place. Not because we desperately need an hour to consume food (we all know we can consume our lunch in five minutes flat), but because we can’t function without taking a break. Does your workforce regularly work through their lunch? Are you unintentionally promoting it by congratulating the hard-work of your employees? We have a set time in place for lunch at Signify, we all take our lunch 12.30-1.30 and more often than not, we go to lunch together.
Taking time out
Some organisations add ‘Mental Health Days’ to sickness days and ‘Duvet days’ where employees can come in later than usual if they aren’t feeling so great first thing in the morning. These could be anything as little as twice per year but could make a huge difference to your workforce. Another thing to look at is the number of annual leave days you currently offer your staff. We close the office for 10 days over Christmas because we understand the importance of spending quality time with your loved ones and welcome back fresh faces, revitalised staff ready to tackle the new year.
Team building and team bonding exercises
Above we have mentioned exercising together and all going for lunch at the same time but there are a number of other things you can do to help well-being in the workplace. Team outings, nights out and incentives are fantastic, but they don’t always have to be costly; even something like introducing ‘walking meetings’ instead of being slumped around the table first thing on a Monday morning, getting some fresh air and having a stroll can do wonders.
Contractors and freelancers in the workplace
A lot of our tips are easy to embed in an office environment, but what about your remote staff and contractors? Do you have regular catch-ups? The report recommends creating an online portal to help employers find the information they need and harnessing digital tools to give mental health support to self-employed people working in the “gig economy”. Becoming a contractor could also help employees with their mental health by providing the ideal platform for gaining greater control over their workload and projects they want to work on, increasing professional satisfaction levels by only taking on contracts they have time for.
We hope you have found our tips useful and you can start introducing some of our suggestions for a less stressed workforce.
*Disclaimer: at Signify we are many wonderful things but we are neither health professionals nor doctors. Our tips are solely suggestions for improving wellbeing in the workplace, and examples of what we currently do.