For many years, mental health was seen as a taboo subject and certainly not something that was acceptable to bring up at work. However, in recent years we have seen more of a focus on the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace.
In the UK we are coming up on a year of being in and out of lockdown as we struggle to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Many of us have been working from home for this entire period, which comes with its own pros and cons. One of the biggest cons is the negative effect it has had on many people’s mental wellbeing. Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation show that the number of people feeling lonely, disconnected and un-motivated has increased from 10% in March of 2020 to 25% as of November. The workplace culture that many people rely on for social interactions has changed significantly and some are struggling to cope. Of course, mental wellbeing should be an important part of any company, regardless of the current circumstances.
We’ve put together our top advice for how to show up for your employees, whether that be online or in person:
Encourage connection & maintain company culture
Make it easier for your team to connect. In the office this is simple as there is plenty of opportunity for water cooler moments. However, if you’re working remotely, we recommend setting up a non-work Slack or Teams channel. This encourages employees to joke and chat with each other throughout their day. Having this set space to maintain your company culture will help to make staff feel connected. Otherwise, they may feel like they don’t belong anymore which decreases productivity and motivation. This space will also encourage employees to share aspects of their day, which can help dispel feelings of loneliness. Consider setting time aside for team building. Since we can’t all be in the office, at Dijify we have a Friday Zoom where we share our achievements from the week (professional or personal) then have a chat and a laugh for the last half hour of the day.
Provide safe spaces.
It is imperative that you provide a safe space for employees to share how they are feeling whether that be 1 to 1 or a team discussion. If they know they can speak candidly, and other people will not only listen but empathise, this will help. Make sure they know anything said in a 1 to 1 conversion regarding their mental health will be kept confidential.
Sitting in one place with your eyes glued to a screen all day can leave you feeling pretty uninspired. Make sure your team know that it’s okay for them to get up and stretch their legs and take a break from their screen throughout the day. Employees can feel the pressure to be constantly ‘on’ and always working at 100% and that can sometimes cause stress that actually ends up negatively affecting their mental wellbeing and their work. It’s much better for both the employee and the company if they feel they can take a break when needed.
Offer optional learning & development.
For some people, their mental health takes a downturn when they feel stuck and as though they are not progressing. Doing the same tasks day in, day out, can quickly start to feel monotonous. If you are spending the majority of your days working on things that don’t challenge or interest you this can have a negative effect on your mental wellbeing. So why not offer your employees the chance to learn new skills, whether they can be directly applied to their work, set them up for future progression or are just a little fun on the side.
Show you care.
One of the most important things you can do is to just take a genuine interest in your employees. Show your appreciation for them and the work they do for you. Make sure they know you see them as a human being and not just an employee. If they’ve mentioned a specific hobby or interest in the past, follow up with them on that subject. Check in with them often to make sure they know you’re thinking of them.
Many companies have begun to hire wellbeing officers and advisors as their team grows, to ensure that they all feel comfortable at work. For small businesses this often becomes a part of the HR manager’s job. Hopefully this advice has given you a few ideas for how you can improve the mental wellbeing awareness and acceptance within your team. Let us know if you have any other suggestions that you find work well.