Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace – Mental Health Week 2021

Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace – Mental Health Week 2021

We asked Tanya Hart, our HR manager, about the importance of mental health in the workplace and the top 5 things she thinks every business should be doing to cultivate a ‘Happy’ environment. Here’s what she had to say: 

According to the Business In The Community (BITC) 2020 findings on mental health at work, 41% of the UK workforce experienced mental health symptoms caused or worsened by work throughout 2020 – this number should not be taken lightly.  

Many of us spend over thirty hours a week at work, this is a major part of our lives, so it is critical that this environment fosters wellbeing and employers need to ensure they are a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.  

What is a healthy workplace?  

The World Health Organisation describes a healthy workplace as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees. By cultivating a positive work environment, the benefits go beyond the individual; we see improvements in the wellbeing of individuals translate into better employee retention, less absenteeism, and higher productivity. It’s simple: happy employees contribute to the success of the company, therefore the company should invest in the success of the individual.  

Eliminating the stigma and embracing the conversation around mental health is something I firmly believe in, for me this is a pillar to the success of Ashbury and is central to our ethos. Since 2013, my objective has been to provide resources to our staff to support their mental health, both through workplace initiatives and of course, a friendly shoulder when they need one. 

5 key things Tanya believes builds a positive mental health environment in the workplace 

1. Having strong lines of communication: It is important for employees to feel they CAN ask for help if they need it and that they know where to go to get it.  

2. Looking out for one another: Not only should there be a designated mental health support team in every workplace, but employees should be encouraged to form relationships and look out for each other too.  

3. Hosting company events: Doing activities together outside of work can strengthen a team’s bond and employees’ sense of belonging, creating a community rather than a workforce.   

4. Encouraging employees to take a break: Working non-stop at a desk can take a toll on people’s eyesight, physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing. It is important to encourage everyone to take a lunch break and a few short breaks away from their desk throughout the day.  

5. The physical environment you work in: Creating a collaborative open-plan workspace can be useful for communication, however, it is important to also have alternatives such as private rooms for when people want to work quietly. COVID-19 has also proved that working from home can be very effective. Offering employees flexible workspace options gives them the freedom to work where they feel they can be the most productive. Having breakout rooms onsite is also a great asset – offering an area for lunch or quick coffee breaks.  

Ashbury’s mental health initiatives: 

Happy Culture: Ashbury follows the happy manifesto, this is a set of 10 core values that when implemented create a happy, productive workplace. The values are: 

    • Trust your people
    • Make your people feel good
    • Give freedom with clear guidelines
    • Be open and transparent  
    • Recruit for attitude, train for skill
    • Celebrate mistakes
    • Community: create mutual benefit  
    • Love work, get a life  
    • Select managers who are good at managing  
    • Play to your strengths

Time to talk: In 2013 Ashbury signed the Time to Talk pledge, this is a national campaign that encourages everyone to be more open to talking about mental health and tackling the stigma around it in the workplace. 

Feedback opportunities for continuous improvement: Each quarter Ashbury holds a staff survey which covers:

    • Regard for employee mental health & wellbeing
    • Being able to see the impact your work makes on the company
    • Receiving recognition  
    • Happiness with the way you are being managed
    • Regularity of constructive feedback
    • Feeling heard & valued by your manager
    • Would you recommend Ashbury as a workplace?  
    • Day to day happiness in your role
    • Support through the pandemic 

We ask our team to rate each area out of 10, 1 being poor, 10 being excellent. In the last survey, the results for each area averaged out between 7 and 8. Meaning we have room for improvement, but for the most part, we have a very happy workforce!  

Mental health first aiders: Our team of 3 mental health first aiders attended a 2-day ‘Mental Health First Aider’ programme run by MHFA England. They meet regularly to discuss any relevant dates or occasions coming up that they think would benefit the Ashbury team. They are also on hand to provide support to all colleagues when needed.  

Flexible working: Even before the pandemic, team Ashbury functioned on a flexible working policy. This enabled everyone to have a better work-life balance, reduce travel costs and have time for the things they love whether that be yoga, travel or their kids.

An open-door policy: We operate on an open-door policy, meaning that all employees should feel they can go and seek help and advice from any member of the team – there is no feeling of hierarchy.

Employee Assistance Programme: Our EAP service provides a complete support network that offers expert advice and compassionate guidance 24/7, covering a wide range of issues. The services include:

    • Life support: Unlimited access to counselling for emotional problems and a pathway to structured telephone counselling or face-to-face counselling sessions.
    • Legal information: For any issues that cause anxiety or distress including debt management, accountancy, lawsuits, consumer disputes, property or neighbour legalities. 
    • Bereavement support: Health Assured offers qualified and experienced counsellors who can help with grief, stress and a team of legal advisors to help with legal issues.
    • Medical information: Qualified nurses are on hand to offer advice on a range of medical or health-related issues. 
    • CBT online: We recognise the value of self-help tools in dealing with a range of issues, which is why we have a range of CBT self-help modules, informative factsheets and invaluable advice videos from leading qualified counsellors. 

The hard facts about Mental health 

  • Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.  
  • 1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.  
  • Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sick days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. 
  • The number of people with mental health problems went up by 20% between 1993 and 2014. 

Whilst we do not have the power to change someone’s life around completely, we can make their work-life as happy as possible. At Ashbury, we care about our company, and we care about our people – taking care of the teams’ mental wellbeing is extremely beneficial to both.  

References: 

https://www.bitc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/bitc-report-wellbeing-mental-health-at-work-2020-Oct20.pdf 

How common are mental health problems? | Mind 

Mental health statistics: mental health at work | Mental Health Foundation 

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