Mental Health in the Workplace: 5 Steps to Improve Your Well-being at Work
This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is Mental Health in the Workplace. WHO is calling on employers to safeguard their staff and understand the importance of good mental wellbeing in the workplace.
The workplace can be a stressful environment for anyone, regardless of how much you might or might not love your job. Heavy workloads, strict deadlines, and trying to avoid awkward run-ins with that one guy from the office, it can turn even the perkiest worker into a clock watching zombie. For many people, the negative effects our workplace has on our mental health run deeper than having a restless night’s sleep before a big meeting.
At least 1 in 6 workers suffer from common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Last year in the UK, Brits took 15.8 million sick days due to mental health problems, with stress accounting for 37% of all work related health issues.
With work-related mental issues on the rise, why is mental health in the workplace still such a taboo?
Those who suffer often feel scared or conflicted about confronting the issue at work. Whether they are worried about what their peers will think or how their bosses may react, 30% of staff feel like they can’t speak openly to their manager about their stress. And unfortunately, many employers aren’t taking mental health seriously. 15% of workers last year faced disciplinary action or dismissal after they opened up to their bosses about said issues.
It’s time to challenge the myth that having a mental health issue equates to poor performance, and encourage those who are going through a tough time to speak up, seek help and not suffer in silence.
If you do suffer from issues related to mental health in the workplace, here are five steps you can take to improve your well-being and hopefully make work a little bit easier:
We all want to feel valued, included, and loved. Evidence shows that being close to other people is a fundamental human need, which contributes to people functioning well in the world. You might not feel like socializing all the time, and that’s ok, but try to connect with someone at least once a day to build on your social skills and indulge the feeling of being part of something. Try talking to someone in-person instead of sending a text, or sharing an uber with a colleague.
We’ve heard this one before, but it’s backed by research. Studies show that regular physical activity results in lower rates of depression and anxiety across all ages. Let’s not get too carried away. You don’t need to sign up for a marathon (yet), but simple tasks like taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking to someone’s desk instead of hitting them up on email are small, but effective ways you can get more active.
It’s easy to get lost in your own world and let your worries eat away at you. But taking a moment to reflect on the present and what’s happening around you is an effective way to reaffirm your priorities. Heighten your awareness and you’ll soon heighten your self-understanding, allowing you to make positive changes based on your own decisions and values. A small change like taking a walk on your lunch break or asking your deskmate about their day will give you some much needed time to reflect on what’s taking place around you.
Learning never stops being important. Setting goals and taking on new challenges not only helps build our self-esteem, but encourages that all-important social interaction as well as helps to keep our brains sharp. If you’re feeling really adventurous, sign up for a new class or a book club. If you’re not quite ready to meet new people yet, you could spend your next subway trip doing a Sudoku puzzle instead of scrolling through your twitter feed.
Giving back always feels great and it turns out there’s a science behind that too. Participation amongst society and the community has attracted a lot of attention recently in the field of wellbeing research. One report showed that those who expressed a greater interest in helping others were more likely to rate themselves as happy. Try starting with one small act of kindness a day. Like the waitress’s shoes? Tell her. Leave your housemate a cute note on the fridge before you go to work, or bake some cookies and take them to the office for everyone to enjoy. You never know, you might just be the positive moment someone at the office needs that day.
For more information on the “Five Small Steps,” visit mind.org.uk.
To read more about World Mental Health Day, head to Mentalhealth.org.uk.