This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has chosen to focus on stress, and provides us with a timely reminder of the role that the workplace can play in alleviating stress. HR departments need to be using this week as an opportunity to take a long-term look at their approach to stress-management, and ways to improve their employee wellbeing programme to reduce stress.
In the UK alone, over half a million people were diagnosed with work-related stress, anxiety, and depression last year, with each person afflicted needing to take 23.8 days off on average (totally 12.5 million lost days). Stress affects concentration, mood, diet, and our overall ability to efficiently cope with tasks in both our personal and professional lives. The benefits of having an employee wellbeing programme that effectively reduces stress include:
- Focused, productive employees
- Higher staff retention
- Reduced sickness
- A more attractive workplace for high calibre candidates
But more importantly than that, you’ll have a happier, healthier workforce. In fact, an IIP study showed that 80% of people would feel better about their employers if they improved their health and wellbeing offerings.
To help Mental Health Awareness Week have a lasting impact on your company, here’s five ideas that you can begin implementing today which will stand the test of time:
Have a common exercise goal
Many companies now have schemes for discounted or free gym memberships, companies of a certain size may even offer their own gym at their offices. This has some solid science behind it, as physical exertion helps improve sleep and releases endorphins, which plays a vital role in cutting stress and improving mental wellbeing. But how can you ensure your staff are actually using it?
Encouraging teams to have something to train for together, such as a fun run or obstacle course, will push people to derive maximum value out of this sort of programme. Not only are there health benefits for them all, but overcoming a demanding challenge will build a stronger morale among staff.
Work together to beat smoking
A key lifestyle change many people are looking to make is to cut down on smoking, or quit outright. Although many people find a cigarette helps give a momentary release from stress, nicotine addiction will increase your overall stress levels in the long run as your body suffers from withdrawal symptoms. There are far more effective ways of calming your nerves once they become habit.
Provide a supportive environment for people looking to cut back, such as organising group sessions for staff to discuss their progress and encourage each other. Having literature on hand with suggestions, plans, and information about stopping smoking will also be useful.
Similar plans can be put in place for those wanting to cut down on alcohol, or improve their diet.
Expedite health checkups
It would be deemed irresponsible if your staff weren’t getting their company cars checked once a year, so why should their physical and mental wellbeing be any different? Ensure staff are informed about how they can get regular health checks, and that they have the time to do so. Also, communicate any support you are able offer for common issues that arise, such as tips on meditation or mindfulness to help combat stress.
Curate a healthy work-life balance
Building a healthy work-life balance will give your employees the head space to achieve great things in the workplace while simultaneously optimising the rejuvenation in their time away from work. Achieving this will vary depending on the individual’s preferred working styles, but the company can set the tone.
You may wish to instill a company policy that discourages contacting people while they are on holiday, urges employees to take their full lunch break, or limits access to work servers outside of office hours. If your employees are regularly leaving work on time with all tasks completed, their ability to ‘switch off’ from the office will be immeasurably better.
Win back your time with tech
From the intern to the C-suite, it’s inevitable that time will be taken up by admin tasks that distract from the more crucial, value-adding tasks that your employees have been hired to perform. But why not minimise that time?
Investing in software to streamline business processes, management duties, and resource optimisation will claw back vital hours of the day for your staff. By giving them more time to focus on the primary tasks of their role, you will help keep their workload in check, giving stress less of a chance to build up.
Keeping it going
The important facet underpinning this activity is that the battle against stress is an ongoing one. It will evolve with your company’s culture and unique pressures, therefore it needs to be regularly reviewed to ensure it’s still reaching the objectives you originally set out to achieve. Gathering feedback at annual intervals may give you some insight, but seeing how many people are aware of what your employee wellbeing programme offers will also show you what the uptake is and why.
If you want to explore more ways of improving mental health in the workplace, here’s five tips to keep you on track. If you’ve got any other ideas for lowering stress in the workplace, chat to us on Twitter or LinkedIn and let us know about your experiences, or join the conversation on Twitter using #MHAW18.