What Can Employees Do to Help Their Own Mental Health in the Workplace
While every company has a duty to offer its employees support if they are dealing with a mental health issue, there are certain things your staff can do for themselves to make sure they are as well as they can be – especially in the workplace.
This week our panel of experts share their expert advice on how you can help your employees help themselves when it comes to managing their own mental health in the workplace.
There are a number of ways to improve mental health, including more exercise, higher quality and longer sleep, and better nutrition. Although employees may not see how these are connected, studies have shown how one dimension of well-being impacts another. Employees with mental illness should seek professional support and treatment as well as tell friends and family who can provide support when needed.
Nick Patel, CEO of Wellable.
The most important actions that individuals can take to better their own mental health in the workplace is to pay attention to how they feel and how it fluctuates. Being aware of your mood and energy levels can help you identify issues early on and address them accordingly.
It is also important to analyse your lifestyle such as your sleep pattern, nutrition, exercise, your attitude towards work and your sense of purpose. Making small positive changes for the long term will help you lead a happier and healthier life.
Finally, ensure you maintain a good work life balance and prioritise what is important, at work and at home. Turn off your work emails when you leave for the day and ensure you leave your desk at work to get some fresh air and exercise at regular intervals. Being able to leave ‘work at work’ and take regular breaks from your desk means not being over-absorbed in your work and taking time for yourself, family and friends.
Renae Shaw, Head of HR at Search Laboratory.
Employees should be informed about their insurance coverage including co-pays and deductibles, covered providers in their network, and navigating access to care. They should also be informed about leave policies including Family and Medical Leave in America, for example. They need to know about the minimum amount of information their employer (usually Human Resources) needs to know in order to process leave requests, and their own rights to privilege and privacy. Accessing good mental health care often involves self-advocacy by the employee, so they need to be assertive about their needs and rights when that is appropriate.
Dr. Lee Keyes, is a Psychologist and Emeritus Director at the University of Alabama.
There are lots of practical ways we can help our own mental health and reduce stress in the workplace. Working out what makes you stressed or negatively impacts your mental health is a good place to start.
You can then discuss how to minimise these triggers with your line manager and try out different things to see what works for you.
- Take small breaks away from your work station, ideally getting outside
- Identify thought patterns that contribute to stress and make a conscious effort to practice healthier thoughts – breathing exercises really help with this!
- Use time management and email management tools to support your productivity e.g. rules and categories to reduce the volume of emails coming directly into your inbox
- Plan your week in advance and at the beginning of each day, plan out what you’ll do in the morning and afternoon – block out times in your diary if this is helpful
- Celebrate every achievement, big or small
- Set boundaries between work and life outside of work – and make sure you’re maintaining a life outside of work and have a healthy work-life balance.
Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.
Having an open dialogue with a manager may seem intimidating, but it can help make it easier for employees to communicate the fluctuations of their mental health and be clear about their needs, so managers know how to best support and accommodate them.
Encourage employees to learn skills such as mindfulness, problem-solving, meditation and keeping a good work/life balance to help them cope in difficult situations.
Small, regular actions, like setting an alarm to go home on time every day or making sure staff take a full lunch break away from their desks, can result in long-term, positive behaviour changes.
Brendan Street, Professional Head of Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health.
People often talk about building resilience in order to better manage their own mental health and that will be different things to different people. For me, the key terms are flexibility, balance and self-care. Having flexibility in how and where we work is not always possible but if it can be done, do! Creating a balance between life and work so that we are able to make space for the people and places we love. And self-care – whether that be a walk out in nature or a day in bed with a book. Making time for yourself is critical.
Shona Davies, Founder of Shona Davies Consulting.
According to some research we carried out, work is the most common cause of stress for UK adults with 59% experiencing it. In most instances it’s because we don’t know how to switch off work and properly rest. Mindfulness is probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help overcome this problem, helping us feel happier and healthier. It’s a great method to cope with anxiety because it makes one focus on the “being” rather than the “doing”, encouraging you to focus on the present state of mind.
Chieu Cao, Co-Founder of Perkbox.
There are many ways that employees can protect their mental health. We know that staying active, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of sleep are all lifestyle factors linked to mental wellbeing – but also that resilient people have strong support networks, find it easy to talk about problems, are self-aware (something that can be strengthened by practising mindfulness), and are able to see the bigger picture.
Lucy Faulks, Co-founder of Elevate.
It is important for employees to have a good life/work balance, this will be helped by them not working beyond the agreed daily hours. Having hobbies and interests outside of work, taking regular exercise, getting enough sleep and having a healthy/balanced diet all contribute to positive mental health. Taking regular breaks from computers, having a lunch break away from the desk and positive working relationships with colleagues will also help.
Paula Whelan, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Right Track Learning.
We all have an obligation to acknowledge needs like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, then seek help. It’s not always easy, especially when you are in the middle of it. It can be very hard to climb out of the despair that some people feel.
At CHG, we really look to our leaders to identify and work with people who are struggling with mental health needs. Our expectation is that we take care of our employees and provide resources for them. For us, we have tackled it by acknowledging that mental health needs exist, providing services for people, and letting them know that it’s okay to use them. Employees should take full advantage of whatever benefits employers offer them.
Nicole Thurman, Vice President, Talent Management at CHG Healthcare.