Studies show that investing in your staff’s mental health has long term benefits for both them and the workplace. A workplace mental health programme has been shown to positively impact absenteeism, productivity, safety and turnover. And even if you don’t have a big budget, there are numerous low-cost ways to assist employees in looking after their mental health.
Here are our top tips on how to improve mental health and wellbeing at work.
1. Develop a workplace culture that supports mental health and enables people to seek help when they need it.
At any given time, about one in five people in Australia experiences a mental health condition – most commonly anxiety and depression. Analysis by PwC finds that for every dollar a business invests in effective mental health initiatives, it receives an average return of $2.30.
By creating a culture that supports the mental health needs of employees, you’re contributing to the overall health of the company as well as the company’s bottom line.
2. Create a safe space for staff.
Create a space within the office that allows staff to be alone for a moment. As the majority of offices transition to open-plan, it’s important to set aside areas for people to feel psychologically safe and escape the hubbub of the hectic office environment.
A safe space can be as simple as a break room that allows for employees to have a snack, perform meditation or even nap. An imaginative example of this: Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking recently teamed up with an office furniture maker to create a series of specially designed “Quiet Spaces”, which offer “an antidote to the open office plan.”
3. Get commitment from leadership to support mental health and wellbeing in the company.
Mental health conditions result in around 12 million days of reduced productivity for Australian businesses annually. With the evidence available, it’s not hard to make the business case to invest in mental health; the next step is ensuring that senior management make the same commitment to mental health they want to see from their staff. When employees see their company managers and team leaders putting themselves out there and taking part in open conversations about mental health, it instantly inspires staff to participate.
4. Encourage staff to switch off throughout their day.
Educating teams and individuals on how to switch off during the day is cost-effective and easy to implement. Teaching mentally-healthy practices such as taking time away from technology or finding time throughout the day to breathe deeply or meditate, will teach staff to better manage stress, harness their creativity, improve their relationships and stay focused. This can help them to make clearer decisions in the workplace and in life outside of the office.
5. Connect with your staff
Whether you’re a team leader or HR manager, it is important to make sure every voice is heard.
How you communicate with and treat staff can affect how they undertake work, display resilience at times of pressure and manage any difficulties they may be experiencing. Effective people management skills, active listening and empathy are integral to managing mental health in the workplace.
Hold regular one-on-one meetings. Ask staff regularly how they feel. Focus on the positives before communicating the negatives and show your appreciation on a regular basis.
6. Encourage good eating habits
More and more studies are revealing the impact that diet can have on an individual’s mental health. One study found that diet was particularly important for preventing and treating depression, which can greatly affect productivity at work.
Organisations can encourage their employees to take control of their mental health by educating them about healthy choices, offering healthy snacks, and supplying healthy options when the occasion calls for catering, such as client meetings and team building events. In particular, this involves selecting more plant-based foods such as unrefined whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and limiting processed sugar and carbohydrates, which has been shown to heal the gut and enhance cognitive function.