It is estimated that most people spend more time in the workplace amongst colleagues than relaxing at home with friends and family. As work takes up such a huge part of your life, you must find it as enjoyable and engaging as possible. However, the workplace becomes an environment that makes you and your employees miserable and affects mental health. This can be due to many reasons: constant deadlines, heavy workloads, and the necessity of working with clashing personality types, to name a few. On top of all this, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the new pressures it has introduced to the workplace have only helped intensify the feeling of workplace stress for many people. If left unchecked, this stress can snowball into serious mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. To help guide you and your workforce, here are some tips for supporting mental health in the workplace. 

Develop positive communication skills

Poor communication is often at the heart of workplace stress and struggles with mental health. For instance, a person may struggle to express their needs in terms of workload and contributing ideas in team meetings. The result is that they feel undervalued and have low self-esteem, while drowning under an overloaded workload. At the other end of the spectrum, another person might constantly be working on a short fuse that is regularly ignited by their colleagues, to whom they respond with rude and aggressive statements. Assertiveness training is an excellent solution to promoting effective communication amongst colleagues. Individuals learn how to express their needs firmly and clearly while being respectful of the other person. Having the tools to clearly express your needs will bring a sense of control over your life, which will in turn lead to improved mental health.

Encourage an open and supportive workplace environment

Recent years have seen huge steps to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health; however, many people are still reluctant to talk about such issues, particularly in the workplace. You can do your bit to reduce the stigma by fostering an open and supportive workplace environment where staff feel comfortable asking for help when they are struggling. You could also consider making changes to your working practices in order to support improved mental health, such as allowing staff to work from home when necessary and introducing ‘mental health days’ alongside traditional sick days. In fact, businesses in Dorset are using AI to improve mental health at work by analyzing factors such as employee data, culture, and operations. Doing the same yourself could help to greatly improve productivity levels, job satisfaction, and the overall happiness of your workforce.

Encourage a good work-life balance

Consider the work culture of your business. If your motto is something along the lines of ‘work hard, play hard’, this could well be having a negative impact on the mental health of your staff. A corporate culture that encourages long hours spent working at the office to the detriment of your personal life will only result in staff burnout and high levels of work-based stress. As an employer, you have the unique responsibility of providing a model of your company’s work culture to your employees, and through this example, you can demonstrate that although it is important to work hard, it is equally important to ensure that time is made away from the office for rest and relaxation with friends and family and pursuing hobbies. If overtime is necessary, for instance, to complete a big project, ensure that your team is able to reclaim the time through a Flexitime system.

Practise mindfulness in the workplace

Mindfulness is the practice of being wholly in the moment and rather than operating on autopilot and is a grounding technique that enables you to feel more alive and present while also helping to reduce anxiety. Introducing regular moments of mindfulness into the workday can help ground you and your workforce and is beneficial for mental health. Mindfulness exercises can be as long or as short as you wish, depending on the amount of time available to you. You could listen to a guided meditation on an app like Headspace or simply practice deep breathing for a few minutes to help calm and relax your nervous system and leave you with a clearer head ready to tackle the rest of the working day.

These tips should make it easier for staff to look after their own mental health. Employers have a responsibility that their work environment and workload don’t negatively impact their staff. By using these tips, you can foster a less stressful workplace that is enjoyable to be at.

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