Mental health at Work

2 in 5 (42 per cent) UK employees who have called in sick and claimed they were physically unwell were covering up a mental health issue…. that’s nearly half!!

Let me hit you with some more statistics:

  • 300,000 employees with a long-term mental health issue lose their job each year, and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions
  • 20% of people have gone to work while experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings
  • 30% of managers report not having any workplace facilities or services that could help wellbeing and mental health

Work is a major part of our lives. In most cases, we spend the majority of our day there, we make friends there, and it’s a source of income. If it is a fulfilling and happy environment then this will contribute to positive mental health and promote productivity. We all have times when things get over-whelming, i.e. deadlines, meetings, restructures. Sometimes it can be things that happen in your personal life that affect your mental health. In my previous post, I talked about operating on low energy caused by a lot of changes happening, particularly in my working environment. It is hard to remain positive and productive when you are dealing with ongoing stress.

At work, we might notice that we are more tired than usual. We might make uncharacteristic mistakes, find it hard to motivate ourselves, our timekeeping might slip, or we may be short tempered. We might find we isolate ourselves, avoid colleagues or appear distracted. We might procrastinate more – or grind to a halt altogether. Or we might speed up or become chaotic, intruding into others’ conversations and work, and taking on more work than we can manage.

  • Why aren’t people discussing it in the workplace?

Just 16% of UK employees felt comfortable to disclose a mental health issue to their manager.

Awareness of mental health is increasing, but people still fear that they will be discriminated against, or that people will think they are weak and unable to cope. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees are less likely to talk openly at work and seek help from colleagues or line managers, and BAME managers feel they are less likely to be given the support they need to help employees. Similarly, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and other (LGBT+) employees are disproportionately more likely to have mental health issues, and are less likely to talk about them.

Tips to promote good mental health at work

  • Reclaim your lunch break! – Hands up who eats their lunch at their desk (me, me, me!). All this does is encourage people to approach you to discuss work/tasks and so you never get that time truly to yourself. Use the hour/half hour to take a walk (even if it’s around the block), go to the canteen, read a book. Anything to take yourself away from your screen and refresh your mind for the 2nd half of the day.
  • Re-asses your work life balance – Working through your break and working long hours is a sure-fire way to burning out. There will be occasions where you will need to work late to meet deadlines but don’t make that exception your normality. I’ve found booking an exercise class after work is a great way to switch focus from a long day at work. If your funds allow it, book some time off and don’t you dare access emails whilst your on annual leave!!
  • Use the time on your commute to and from work to unwind  – Read a book, listen to some music, take a shortcut down some quieter roads. if, like myself, you have the mis-fortune of taking the underground you will need those zen moments!
  • Talk about your feelings or lend an ear – Find someone you feel comfortable with and will be supportive to talk about mental health with. If there’s not someone at work to do that, lean on your friends, family, partners. If you spot a colleague that seems to be suffering, check in on them and lend an ear. The stigma ends when the conversations begin.

Mental health org has a great guide on how to support mental health at work for yourself and colleagues. It gives you some more pointers on how to promote a positive work environment and how to reach out if you spot a colleague in distress.

* How do you promote positive mental health at work? *


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