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Is mental wellbeing truly supported in the workplace? It’s #TimetoTalk

Is mental wellbeing truly supported in the workplace? It’s #TimetoTalk

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According to the Royal College of Nursing, 1 in 4 people in the UK will have a mental health problem during their lives. Personally, I believe that everybody experiences varying degrees of mental health and just like our physical health, we sit on an ever-changing spectrum based on our circumstances and experiences.



 

Think about it – how many of these sound familiar after a bad day?

  • Ordering in instead of cooking the food already in the fridge, or;
  • Going online and ordering yourself half of ASOS’s stock, or;
  • Dodging the gym on your way home.

All of which we may regret the following day… or not!

Even on a very minor level, the reality is that the events in our day affect our behaviours, and so naturally this has an impact on every aspect of our lives – including in the workplace.

At Buck’s recent seminar, ‘Innovations in HR’, Ry Morgan from Unmind gave a fascinating insight into the perception of mental health through society’s eyes.  While we all agree that our reactive services are invaluable and saving the lives of people struggling with mental health issues, could we each do more to take care of our mental health before it gets to that stage?

The idea of prevention being better than cure is not a new one. The UK has always been at the forefront of prevention ever since the smallpox vaccine in 1796. The Royal College of Nursing state that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is now a fundamental principle of modern health care. Despite this, there is still a stigma around consistently taking care of our mental health. To steal Ry’s example, we spend 5-10 minutes every day brushing our teeth, such an anatomically basic part of our being, and it would be frowned upon if we didn’t. In contrast, taking care of our brains – one of the most complex phenomena in the universe – is for the most part forgotten, and to some extent frowned upon.

Could employers do more to create an environment where taking care of mental wellbeing is normalised?

I discovered the other day that jogging was once considered to be a weird thing to do. Nowadays we see people jogging all the time and wouldn’t bat an eyelid, as taking care of our physical wellbeing has become the norm. According to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 78% of employees feel that financial concerns contribute to stress levels. Similarly, in a study conducted by Salary Finance, they estimate that financial stress results in a cost of 13%-17% of total salary to employers each year; be that through absenteeism, poor efficiency or reduced quality of work. So, as the topic of mental wellbeing becomes increasingly discussed, I would argue that is absolutely within the best interest of employers to encourage an environment where taking care of mental wellbeing can become the next jogging.

Piecing it all together

It is always important to remember that any successful wellbeing strategy must consider mental wellbeing in conjunction with physical and financial wellbeing. A Vitality Invest survey discovered that when planning for retirement, people were more concerned by their declining health than they were by the prospect of running out of money.

Either way, neither outcome is desirable!

There are many examples out there of how providers and employers alike are developing their strategies to tackle all aspects of wellbeing, such as:

  • Linking physical and financial wellbeing: with smart watches it is possible to track our exercise against pre-set targets and benefit from reduced charges or gain access to discounts and vouchers.
  • Linking mental and financial wellbeing: career stagnation can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing and according to Udemy’s 2018 report, ‘millennials at work,’ learning and development was the most important benefit when deciding where to work. The power of data and technology now allows us to integrate training and development into flexible benefits. This allows employees to accumulate additional skills alongside entitlement to benefits or access to discounts and vouchers.

Essentially, by incentivising short-term action, we begin to change employee behaviour to generate those desired long-term outcomes across employees’ entire wellbeing.

In many cases employers have all the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle but often don’t have the infrastructure, underlying strategy and communication skills to drive change in employee behaviour. Through technology and effective communications, we can make this happen and generate positive long-term outcomes.

It’s #TimetoTalk

Having seen loved ones battle with mental health issues, today is an incredible opportunity to simply start a conversation – be that with the people you love or people you don’t even know. Small actions can make a big difference: chat over a cup of tea, take a walk or even just send a text; often just listening can be enough. Together we can get rid of the stigma around mental health and create an environment where everyone can seek help without feeling ostracised.

If you’re looking for a place to start, Time to Change have an array of materials to help you start the conversation. This can help you bring the topic of mental health into the limelight in your workplace and create an environment where your employees are at the top of their game mentally, physically and financially.

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