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Mental Health Awareness Week: Focusing on your employees' mental health

Today marks the start of 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health and mental health issues as well as to encourage action to promote the message of good mental health for all, both in the workspace as well as privately. For many, mental health is often seen as a taboo subject with many negative stigmas attached, especially in the workplace as employees are often afraid to open up as they are scared of the consequences and how it may impact their job going forward.

The theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Campaign is Nature. The main reason is that following the long months' of lockdown during the Covid-19 Pandemic, millions of people turned towards nature. It's as if it took a global time of turmoil for society to stop, re-connect with and re-discover the beauty of our world. It allowed us to refocus on the small things, to get out and about in fresh air, to notice the world around us, instead of just being bogged down with work, stress and always being on the go. 

This past year has put a big strain on people's mental health, so this year there's a big focus on Mental Health Awareness Week. There's been a huge sense of loss, be it loosing people close to us from Coronavirus, or loss in terms of what we planned and set out to achieve. There's been a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the workspace as to what the future will look like and will it be business as usual. With this in mind, it is critical to focus on your employees’ wellbeing and give them the necessary tools they need to feel better equipped to deal with their feelings and insecurities and to best support them in whatever way possible.

Underlying this unstable patch we are living through, employees are feeling even more overworked, stretched to capacity, often feel undervalued and this has the potential to spiral downwards rapidly and drastically affect mental health, especially while working from home, or in a dispersed way. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

Fortunately, there has been a lot more emphasis put on introducing initiatives to open up the topic of mental health within businesses and making it a more approachable topic, where employees are not terrified for opening up in fear of judgement and the fear of how it could affect their jobs. Below are five ways to address mental health and wellbeing at work:

1. Flexibility is key!
Offering flexibility may be more beneficial than an increase in pay cheque for some employees. Giving employees an element of freedom to start the day later or leave earlier can help reduce stress and anxiety and can often promote productivity as employees will be more focused when they are less anxious about traffic, school-runs or appointments. This also shows companies do indeed value and trust their employees to get the job done, which can help promote confidence in the workplace. In today's times when employees are working from home there is still an opportunity to offer flexibility. Let your team do suitable hours, attend appointments and take the necessary time they need to get the help they may need. Sometimes this speaks louder than words and can assist in boosting their mental health, reducing unnecessary stress, increasing productivity and minimizing staff absenteeism.

2. Work-life balance
The so-called pinnacle of euphoria - a work-life balance! A work-life balance should be a non-negotiable and is absolutely crucial for all employees (and employers) and their mental health and wellbeing. Encourage your team to work an 8 hour day and not more, to try not check emails late at night or over the weekend, or limit the over hours if tasks permit. When your team are overworked and overstretched, they are not working to their optimum so it’s a loose-loose situation all round. There shouldn't be an expectation for additional hours to be done, unless a pressing deadline. Therefore, ensure your work deadlines and commitments are realistic and do not require consistent overtime, and when they do, offer time off in lieu. Ensuring your team feel they are able to have this balance will do wonders for this mental wellbeing. 

3. Recognition, recognition, recognition! 
All of us (employers and employees alike) need recognition, recognition that a job has been done well, or a simple thank you - this is a basic human need. And this is even more true when working from home, or a team is not coherently working together and are dispersed. When receiving a well done or public acknowledgment in front of the team (be it on Zoom or MS Teams), there is nothing better to boost morale and make one feel valued. The ramifications of this are huge, where commitment, motivation and passion can soar. Whether you decide to recognise and reward informally, or by implementing a full scale reward and recognition programme, this is an area where time and efforts should be allocated. This is sure to have a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing. 

3. Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
Organisations can show a duty of care to their employees by offering an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). This will give employees access to 24/7 confidential help and advice when they most need it. If employees are experiencing any work-related or personal difficulties this can severely effect their working capacity and can increase absenteeism and lead to a performance decrease. Employee morale will be down and this can impact the whole culture like wildfire. An EAP service can include everything from telephone helplines, structured telephone counselling, post trauma support, GP Call back and medical advice, commercial legal advice for HR, online Health Portal, online Health Assessments, online Personal Coaching Tools… to name a few. 

3. Introduce a wellness initiative
A longer term solution to tackling mental health can be to introduce ongoing healthy benefits and perks for employees. A healthy body often leads to a healthy mind. Let nature be part of your wellness initiatives. There are many ways to do this, be it giving the team some time out to focus on themselves, regular Yoga classes at work / on the rooftop, a meditation room, or some boot camp classes at the local park. Why not introduce a healthy snack station or a smoothie bar in the office? More so, encourage your teams to take time away from their screens, have a walk around the area, stretch their legs and get away from the grind. A healthy body can aid in a healthy mind, so lead the way to a healthier workspace which can most definitely tackle mental health and alleviate any additional stressors.

So, is mental health a priority in your business? What have you implemented to help maintain good mental health for your employees, especially since Covid-19? And what initiatives have you seen or heard during this Mental Health Awareness Week that you think will make a difference?

If you'd like to find out how Xexec can help your employees' wellbeing, why not get in touch today?

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