Mental Wellbeing at Work: Tips for Employers and Employees
In today’s world, mental health is roundly granted equal importance with physical health. Given that work commitments take up such a large proportion of our daily lives, it is only right to consider how both employers and employees can maximise mental wellbeing at work.
how employers can help
Promoting strong mental wellbeing at work practices and fostering a supportive environment is not just beneficial to your employees, but also to your business. Employees who feel that their mental health is a priority are likely to be more motivated, energised and satisfied within their role. As a result, the performance of employees when they are at work is likely to be better. Relatedly, days lost due to sickness absence and turnover of staff are both likely to decrease.
Prevention is almost always better than cure, and with that in mind, what policies can you, as an employer, put in place to promote good mental wellbeing at work? One crucially important aspect is competent and supportive line management; this includes giving employees work appropriate to their level of skill and experience with realistic deadlines, being open to questions and actively engaging employees on how they are finding work.
Policies should also be in place to identify common triggers of an employee’s mental wellbeing at work, such as overworking, high workloads and short deadlines. Whilst the reality is that in many roles a high workload or short deadlines are an inevitable part of the work at times (e.g. financial positions near year and quarter end), these triggers are unsustainable in the long-term and should not be seen as an expectation of the role.
You could consider, as suggested by the mental health charity Mind, implementing Wellness Action Plans in order to help identify the cause of unsatisfactory mental wellbeing at work and the support that may be needed to boost mental health. Where an employee has an existing mental health disability, you should consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to their role or environment in order to mitigate the effects and allow them to perform their role on a level playing field with their colleagues.
what can employees do?
The last 2-3 years have drastically altered what many of us think of when we hear the word ‘workplace’. Working from home, or splitting time between home and the office, has been a welcome change for many. However, for others, it has led to an ‘always on’ expectation towards work and increased how difficult it is to separate work and personal life.
One of the most important ways in which all employees, and especially those working from home, can protect their mental health is to create boundaries between work and home life. If working from home, this can be a physical boundary; designate a room or part of your living space as the ‘office’. This room should ideally be separate from areas in which you relax, socialise and use for personal time. Once you have finished work, leave that ‘office’ space. Having a work from home ‘office’ in the same area where you are trying to unwind can increase that ‘always on’ mentality and may mean you cannot properly switch off from work.
As well as physical boundaries, try and employ some mental barriers between yourself and work during your personal time. I am sure most of us are guilty of having a quick browse of work emails when we are not technically supposed to be working. Where possible, resist the temptation – during evenings, weekends and holidays, save your emails until you are back at work. This will help you properly rest and recuperate on your down time, which can in turn improve motivation, mood, and performance at work.
At work, small changes such as making a daily to-do list can help you prioritise tasks and manage deadlines, which is a big source of anxiety for a lot of people. Make sure to take breaks, even small ones to stretch your legs, during the workday. This can help re-focus your mind and break up the day. If you are experiencing difficulties, particularly with mental wellbeing at work, there should be someone available such as your line manager or HR colleague for you to speak to.
how didlaw can help
In some cases, employers do not create an environment that fosters positive mental health. At didlaw, we have a wealth of experience helping employees whose work environment or relationships are negatively affecting their mental wellbeing. If you would like to speak to us about an issue at work, please contact us.
This blog was written by Michael Green, trainee solicitor for didlaw.