With recent research revealing at least 30 percent of all recorded sick days are related to mental health conditions, World Mental Health Day is no less relevant to employers in 2018.
This year's theme focuses particularly on young people and mental health in a changing world.
But that changing world - of smart phones and 24/7 connectivity - isn’t only affecting the young. It results in many employees feeling under pressure to always be connected to the office, ready to respond and perhaps failing to take proper time away to rest and restore.
The Mental Health Report 2018, published by AdviserPlus, found three in ten recorded sick days are related to mental health conditions. A figure which, given that fewer than one in ten employees feel comfortable confiding in their employer about the issue, may well, in truth, be significantly higher.
Both employers and employees have a responsibility and ability to make a difference.
For many of us the advice around how to maintain a sense of mental wellbeing isn’t new, but a reminder every now and again can serve us all well - and hearing it from an employer can underline to employees that they’re in a supportive environment.
In its ‘How to support mental health at work publication’ The Mental Health Foundation advises ten things everyone can do to improve their own mental health and build resilience.
The Mental Health Foundation recognises it can be difficult to discuss feelings at work, but the advice is to speak up especially if asked by a supervisor. Leaders can help too, it says, by being open about their own feelings which could encourage others to speak out. Failing that, ensure you have someone outside of work you can discuss your work pressures with.
Regular exercise can boost self-esteem, improve concentration and sleep patterns. Building exercise in before or after work, or even a lunchtime walk, can make a huge difference.
The foundation advises getting away from the desk to eat, reducing or giving up caffeine and refined sugar.
It adds that it’s worth remembering that some people find public eating stressful, perhaps due to a past or current eating disorder and commenting on someone not wanting to come to work meals, for example, should be avoided.
Whilst most people wouldn’t drink during the working day it’s important to be conscious of not drinking more during evenings and weekends due to work stresses - and of course at work events!
5. Keeping in touch
Whilst support networks of trusted colleagues at work are important to have, maintaining friendships and family relationships, even when work is intense, also matters.
Occupational health support may be available via an employee support scheme if needed or just seeking help from a manager may be enough. Failing that, turn to your GP, who may be able to refer you to a specialist.
The Mental Health Foundation reminds of the benefits of short pauses from the task in hand and taking lunch breaks, even if it only be for half an hour. Longer breaks are also important. Time off can be difficult to commit to in times of heavy workloads and planning holiday out for the year ahead is one way to try to ensure it is taken.
Spending some time on something you enjoy, which in all likelihood is also something you’re good at, such as gardening or crosswords, will help the sense of achieving something, self-esteem and provide a bit of escapism from work worries.
It’s healthier to accept who you are and that you’re unique, than to waste time wishing you were more like someone else, the foundation says.
It also warns against allowing your entire self-esteem to be built around work successes.
Helping others can make us all feel valued and needed. That can be something as simple as asking a colleague how they’re doing or offering to assist with a training need.
On the flipside, employers can make a difference too.
To spot potential signs of mental ill-health, it’s vital that managers have regular training – ideally at least once a year. Research and understanding are constantly changing so an annual refresher course will help managers stay up to date with the latest thinking, and cost businesses a lot less than repeated employee absences, as described in ‘bipolar disorder in the workplace what do businesses need to be doing.’ You can find full details of the Mental Health training courses we offer, along with Mental Health First Aid accreditation:
Additionally, our post ‘Executives must listen to HR on mental health,’ lists three immediate steps to make a difference to employee wellbeing.
For further insight, download the full AdviserPlus Mental Health Report 2018 for free.