In the United States, almost 50% of adults will experience a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. So it’s no surprise that over 200 million workdays are lost every single year to mental health conditions - approximately $16.8 billion dollars in employee productivity.
So why, despite the huge impact this has on both employees and their employers, is the topic still a taboo? And what can we do about it? Here's our thoughts...
Start The Conversation
Talking is key, especially when it comes to reducing stigma. Some may feel that a professional environment isn't somewhere they can talk openly about mental health issues. They may fear that their manager will think they're less capable of the job, or will give them special treatment. Of course, it's a hard conversation and one that should't be had without due thought, making sure that the environment and person you're sharing with makes you feel secure and comfortable.
When you avoid speaking out, you’re actively denying yourself potential support. It's also encouraging a culture of shame, which is a massive part of a multitude of mental illnesses, and creates a lot of wasted energy when trying to hide symptoms or worries. An honest conversation is a great way to find an appropriate strategy so that you can manage your mental health and still work to the best of your ability. That might be allowing you to work from home when needed, or flexibility to fit in therapy and doctor's appointments.
There's no denying that work can be pretty stressful, which can often exasperate mental health symptoms. So it's important to set up your day in a way that makes sure you're looking after yourself. Here's our top tips...
Make the Most Of Your Lunch Break
For most, that precious hour (or even half an hour) in the middle of the day is hugely under-utilised. It's a great way to squeeze in some time away from your desk and to improve your mental wellbeing at work...
Plan A Group Activity
Work near a park? Organise a game of soccer or volleyball. You could even just go for a walk with a group of friends. The fresh air will do you all wonders, and will boost the energy of your team in time for a productive afternoon.
Whistle While You Work
Music is an amazing way to reduce stress and calm yourself down during the day. A calming playlist will help you to reduce rising anxiety and refocus on the tasks in front of you. If you find the office environment distracting, it's also a great way to block out irritating noises around you. Treat yourself to an afternoon of your favourite tunes to reward yourself for taking on a challenging task!
Get Your Work-Life Balance Right
Are You Last To Leave Work?
Overtime sometimes has to happen, but if being last to leave is a regular occurrence, it's time to reassess your workday. Are you working harder, but not better? Remember, 6 hours of focused work is far better than 10 hours of distracted work. And the long hours will soon start to take their toll...
Create Clear Boundaries
If you're struggling with your mental health, try to leave work at work. Stop checking emails or digging out your laptop at 9pm on the sofa. It'll give you the mental clarity and headspace you need to take on the following day's challenges.
Overwhelm does nothing for your mental health, and one of the best ways to tackle this is by getting organised. Have a daily to do list ready so that you know exactly what you need to achieve. At the end of the day, go through it and write one up for the next day. Once it's down on paper, it's far easier to switch off your brain when you get home.
It's important to remember that despite the many things you can do on an individual level, change - particularly in terms of workplace culture - has to start at the top. Leading figures need to encourage managers & senior employees to be open & to show vulnerability as a strength on order to create an environment of transparency. After all, the more honest conversation that happens, the more you can better manage your team, and your team will better manage their workload! Good mental health benefits are crucial, so putting policies in place and making sure employees are aware of benefits and not afraid to use them is key.
Want more info on supporting members of staff who may be experiencing a mental health problem? Check out Mind’s awesome resource, here.