Workplace stress can be costly.
Businesses are losing £61billion a year to issues surrounding mental health. But with the rise of mental health issues in business and the media, it’s becoming well-known that happy employees are more productive. When companies invest in the wellbeing of their staff, they see an economic return.
So, it’s no wonder mental health and wellbeing are increasingly on the agenda in businesses, with organisations doing more to make sure their employees are healthy, happy and thriving.
We were recently lucky to be joined by Dr Fiona Syme, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Clarity Psychology, who chatted to us all about workplace stress, resiliency and the emotional, social and economical benefits to looking after ourselves and our colleagues at work.
Fiona talked about mental health as a spectrum that we’re all on. We move up and down the spectrum depending on what life throws our way and experiences we have.
It’s important to be aware of this and notice it in our colleagues, in order to manage it well. Certain triggers can be a sign of someone struggling with their mental health: is the bubbly personality of the office suddenly a bit quiet? Has the colleague who always comes for lunch suddenly stopped? These small changes in someone’s behaviour could be a sign that their mental health has taken a dip and it could be worth checking in with them.
So, what does good mental health look like?
Fiona suggested that if you’re investing in these four factors daily, you should be on track to feel good mentally:
- Coping with change and uncertainty. We work best just outside of our comfort zones, which can mean things aren’t always certain. The key is feeling ok to ride out challenges and to be able to recognise when the scales are tipping too far one way.
- Forming and maintaining good relationships. We’re social beings and the people around us and relationships we form are important to our social (and therefore mental) health.
- Feeling, expressing and managing a range of emotions. It’s normal and healthy to have ranging emotions throughout the day. But it’s about balance and ensuring that emotions don’t get the best of you, or in more concerning cases, that you don’t end up feeling numb/grey.
- Learning. Learning keeps us engaged and motivated. Opening our minds to new things can be a really healthy way to keep our minds busy and reduce signs of anxiety and depression.
What are the triggers?
According to the charity Mind, 1 in 6 workers is dealing with a mental health problem. Causes can include long hours, high pressure roles, unmanageable workloads and constant change – unpredictability can be particularly hard to manage – and all of these factors can stop people from performing at their best.
And what are the effects?
Physical, psychological and behavioural changes can indicate that someone is struggling. They might have lost or gained a considerable amount of weight, they could look tired or unwell, they may have lost the confidence they once had or be withdrawing from group work/situations.
But it’s not all bad!
Fiona assured us that as we progress through careers, we all build resiliency to factors that could have a negative impact. Tasks become more manageable with the right support and training and we’re able to get out of your comfort zone in a way that builds confidence rather than bringing it down.
It’s important to ensure that people are given the right material, financial and emotional support they need to perform their roles well. Increased pressure and a lack of the right resources can lead to stress, so equipping people for the job is vital.
There are also some techniques that people can try to tackle workplace stress and feelings of anxiety, not only for themselves, but for colleagues too. Physical exercise such as deep breathing and mindfulness can help, and cognitive exercises like focusing your mind on a time you didn’t feel so stressed and rationalising your thoughts and feelings can help towards coping with challenging situations. It’s important to be proactive with self-care and to give yourself the time to look after your mind as well as your body to avoid burnout and long recovery periods.
At Synergy, we’ve recently introduced yoga on Thursday mornings as part of our wellbeing strategy. Ran by our very own yogi, Meg, it gives people a calm and mindful way to start their day, with deep breathing and a good old stretch.
How can we help each other?
In the workplace, it’s important for us to have each other’s backs and look out for our colleagues. Most of us will spend more time with work colleagues than with our loved ones, so being able to note the signs of poor mental health is key.
Early conversations are crucial. Check in with people; a simple “how are you?” could be all it takes. Ensure that the working environment is conducive to disclosure too, so that people feel like they can open up and feel listened to, without worrying that they’ll be penalised.
Line managers play a key role. Opening up communication and allowing colleagues to feel that they can trust and confide in managers will help people to feel less isolated and anxious about their mental health. Avoid assumptions, embed genuine confidentiality and encourage people to keep talking and opening up. A line manager’s reaction can have a great impact on someone seeking help or not.
Human needs and emotions can seem complex, but really, we’re fairly simple creatures at the heart of it. We all need the basic needs of shelter, water, clothing and sleep, but by building security, love and self-esteem into our lives too, we can ensure we are well mentally, as well as physically.
Fiona’s 5 steps to wellbeing:
- Connect with people
- Be active
- Take notice of those around you and be mindful
- Try something new
- Give – it can feel good to give to others!
We can all be guilty of letting our wellbeing slip. After a stressful day it can be easier to reach for the wine than the running shoes and closing off to people sometimes feels like the better option than opening up. But keeping mental and physical health at the forefront of your mind for yourself and those around you can be powerful and lead to a happy, productive and healthy workforce.
Need some help looking after your employees’ wellbeing? Looking to build wellbeing into your employee engagement strategy? We’ve been working with loads of brands on making their staff feel happy and supported at work and would love to help more organisations to introduce wellbeing into their strategies. We also love to hear about what people are doing in this area to help employees build resiliency and tackle stress. Get in touch, we’d love to chat!