Mental Health and Wellness at Work: Tips for Employees and Managers

March 26, 2020

Mental Health and Wellness at Work

Mental health and wellness at work are essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance

A positive work environment can significantly impact an individual's overall mental well-being, contributing to improved productivity, job satisfaction, and personal fulfilment. 

It is crucial to understand work's role in shaping mental health and the shared obligations of both employers and employees in fostering a supportive atmosphere.

If you are a manager, providing a supportive work environment plays a vital role in employee retention strategies.

Even if you are not responsible for setting policy, looking after your own mental health is essential and should not be neglected. 

Understanding mental health

Mental health refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It plays a crucial role in handling stress, relating to others, and making choices in your daily life. 

A healthy mental state enables you to reach your full potential, work productively, and contribute positively to your community.

Workplace factors that may contribute to mental ill-health include:

  • Excessive workloads
  • Unsocial or inflexible hours
  • Lack of control over job design or workload
  • Unsafe or poor physical working conditions
  • Organisational culture that enables negative behaviours

To support your mental health, you may consider:

  • Seeking professional help if you struggle with mental health problems
  • Balancing work, rest, and leisure
  • Building supportive relationships with colleagues
  • Communicating openly about mental health in the workplace
  • Taking part in activities that promote mental wellbeing, such as exercise or meditation

By clearly understanding mental health and its importance, you can take steps to maintain your well-being and encourage a supportive environment at work.

The role of work in mental health

The role of your work in your mental health cannot be overstated. Your workplace directly influences your mental health by creating a sense of belonging, purpose, and accomplishment in your everyday life. 

You can create a healthy balance by considering aspects such as working arrangements, employer support, and overall workplace culture

Working arrangements

One important aspect is having suitable working arrangements

  • These include having
  • Flexible hours
  • The option to work remotely
  • Clear communication between you and your employer

Long hours and a demanding work schedule can take their toll on your mental health. It's important to find a balance between your professional and personal commitments.

Striking this balance allows you time to relax, regenerate and focus on your hobbies and relationships outside of work.

Additionally, your daily commute to work can also affect your mental health. 

A lengthy and stressful journey can significantly impact your well-being, while a short and manageable commute can help reduce stress. Consider walking or cycling to work for a more relaxing and healthier alternative.

Choosing arrangements that suit your lifestyle helps in managing stress and reducing burnout.

Employer support

As an employee, it's essential to understand the role your employer plays in your mental health. They are responsible for providing a safe and inclusive environment where your needs are recognised and addressed. 

Communicating with your employer about any concerns you might have is crucial, as open and honest communication can lead to effective solutions.

Working with a balanced workload is crucial. Overloading yourself with tasks or having too little to do, can both result in mental strain. 

Ensure you have a manageable workload, and don't be afraid to speak up if you are overwhelmed. Regular breaks and setting realistic expectations can also help improve your mental well-being.

Workplace culture

Your workplace culture also plays a significant role in your mental health. 

Feeling supported by your colleagues, recognised for your efforts, and included in a welcoming atmosphere can greatly impact your mental well-being. 

Encourage an open and inclusive culture where everyone feels safe to share their thoughts and concerns.

Finally, the sector you work in can affect your mental health. It's important to choose a workplace that aligns with your values, goals, and passions to ensure a more fulfilling work experience. 

Reflect on your professional preferences and explore industry opportunities that resonate with your interests. Doing so will make you more likely to feel content and motivated at work.

The responsibility of employers

Legal implications

As an employer, you must care for your employees' mental health and well-being. 

This includes understanding and complying with relevant laws, such as the Equality Act 2010. Failure to meet your legal responsibilities can result in fines or legal action against your organisation.

Work environment design and resources

A key element of supporting mental health in the workplace is designing a work environment that promotes well-being. 

This includes providing access to natural light, quiet spaces for focus and relaxation, and ergonomic furniture. 

Additionally, offering resources such as training for management and staff on mental health awareness and implementing clear work-life balance policies can greatly improve the working environment.

Employee support systems

Establishing employee support systems is essential for promoting mental health at work. 

This includes offering access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which provides confidential counselling and support for employees facing personal or work-related issues. 

Encourage regular communication between staff and line managers to ensure employees feel supported and know the help available to them.

  • EAP services
  • Regular communication with line managers
  • HR support and advice

Adjustment and inclusion

Meeting the needs of all employees is crucial for a mentally healthy workplace. 

Offer reasonable adjustments for employees with mental health conditions, such as flexible hours, workstation modifications, or providing additional support from colleagues and managers.

Furthermore, promote an inclusive workplace culture where everyone feels valued and included, regardless of their mental health status.

Handling discrimination and harassment

Finally, it is essential for organisations to address discrimination and harassment related to mental health actively. 

Develop a clear policy on reporting and handling instances of bullying, harassment, and discrimination, and ensure all employees are aware of the process. 

Provide training on equality and diversity for managers and staff to create a positive mental health culture within the workplace.

By upholding these responsibilities, you will contribute to a healthier and more supportive work environment for all your employees.

Employee perspective

Identifying symptoms

As an employee, it's important to recognise the symptoms of mental health issues that may affect your workplace well-being. 

Early identification of these signs can help you take appropriate steps to address your concerns. 

Some common symptoms include feelings of fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or withdrawal from social interactions with colleagues. 

Paying attention to these warning signals can be key in managing your overall mental health.

Seeking help and recovery

If you notice yourself struggling with any of the mentioned symptoms, seeking help and support is crucial. 

Initiating conversations with trusted colleagues or your manager about your concerns can make a difference. 

You can also approach professional resources like Samaritans for emotional support. Remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and an essential part of the recovery process.

Managing workload and stress

Effective workload management can significantly reduce stress and contribute to a better work-life balance. Consider the following strategies:

  • Prioritise tasks: Make a to-do list and rank tasks based on importance and urgency.
  • Set realistic deadlines: Avoid overcommitting and allocate sufficient time for each task.
  • Delegate: Share responsibilities with colleagues when possible.
  • Take breaks: Regular breaks throughout the day can improve focus and productivity.

Maintaining work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance is essential. Keep the following tips in mind to maintain an equilibrium between work and leisure:

  • Set boundaries: Clearly define the separation between work and personal time.
  • Schedule leisure activities: Plan activities like sports, hobbies, or spending time with family and friends.
  • Take breaks: Make the most of your lunch break and step away from your workspace.
  • Consider childcare and pet support: Look for options like onsite childcare facilities or pet care services to alleviate some of your responsibilities outside of work.

By giving attention to these aspects, you can effectively manage your mental health and wellness at work, fostering a more fulfilling and productive career.

Promoting mental health and wellness at work

Creating a positive workplace culture

A healthy and positive workplace culture is essential for employee well-being and productivity. 

You can improve workplace culture by promoting the five steps to wellbeing:

  1. Connect: Encourage strong relationships among colleagues.
  2. Be active: Promote physical activity by offering discounted gym memberships or organising group exercise sessions.
  3. Take notice: Encourage mindfulness and appreciation for the present moment.
  4. Keep learning: Support ongoing learning and development by providing access to training or resources.
  5. Give: Foster a culture of volunteering and giving back to the community.

Implementing a Wellness Action Plan

A Wellness Action Plan (WAP) is a personalised mental health support tool designed to help employees and managers identify sources of stress and develop strategies to maintain mental wellbeing. 

A WAP can increase employee engagement, reduce absenteeism, and boost productivity.

To create a WAP, consider guidance from organisations like ACAS and consult with employees to identify their needs. 

Using this information, develop a plan focusing on preventive measures, early intervention and support for employees with existing mental health challenges. Regularly review and update the WAP as needed.

Promoting work safety and occupational health

Ensuring a safe working environment is crucial for both physical and mental health. You must comply with occupational health and safety regulations to minimise the risk of accidents and work-related illnesses. 

In addition, security measures should be in place to protect employees and their personal information.

Promote workplace safety by:

  • Conducting regular risk assessments and addressing hazards.
  • Providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary.
  • Offering training on safety practices and procedures.
  • Encouraging employees to report incidents or concerns.

Finally, consider offering healthy food options in the workplace to support employee wellbeing. 

Nutritious meals can increase energy levels, better concentration, and ultimately, enhanced productivity.

Is it time to move on?

Perhaps, you have decided that a new job is the best way to prioritise your mental health. 

If that's the case, then browse our job listings and find a role that works for you.

This post was written by: Rob Boyle, Marketing Operations Director