Enterprise Credit Union Design & Fitout 7

Prioritising mental health in the workplace

10 October marked World Mental Health Day. With mental health issues affecting one in four people at some point in their lives, many employers are looking at how they can better support their staff. In this post we share our thoughts on how to make mental health a priority in the workplace.

What is World Mental Health Day?

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year and aims to create awareness about mental health issues. It is an opportunity to focus on our own mental health, as well as spread awareness about the importance of looking after it. Take a look at how we celebrated World Mental Health Day in the Opus office.

Mental health issues are at an all-time high with the World Health Organisation reporting that depression and anxiety went up by more than 25% in the first year of the pandemic alone. Sadly, with the cost-of-living crisis and other pressures, this looks likely to be an ever-growing trend. With that in mind, many employers are looking for ways they can support their staff during these turbulent times.

Colleagues enjoy new office design and fitout together

Five Ways to Wellbeing

Mental health in the workplace isn’t just about access to employee assistance programmes and other aids. There are plenty of small changes employers can make in the office to support their staff. Research shows that there are five simple things we can all do to boost our mental health and wellbeing, known as Five Ways to Wellbeing. Below we share our tips for how you apply these simply in an office setting:

1. Connect

Good relationships are vital for mental wellbeing. Support the development of strong working relationships by bringing your teams together in person when you can. First-class office design can help to facilitate this collaboration. Make sure you have plenty of different areas where staff can gather formally and informally, such as meeting rooms, comfy seating and dining spaces.

If your office is still (or has always been) digital only, you could try encouraging colleagues to call one another rather than sending an email. Many businesses are implementing internal email-free days to encourage more conversation between staff members.

2. Be active

If you’re thinking about an office refurbishment, consider whether you can have the space and budget to create an area dedicated to employee health and fitness. Many offices now include gyms or outside areas that enable employees to be more active. Take a look at our recent office design and fit out for SmartSearch in Ilkley for some inspo.

Gym at the SmartSearch office in Ilkley

If that’s not an option, you could encourage staff to take the stairs or go for a walk at lunchtime. Weekly walking clubs can be a great way to bring people together and encourage healthy habits. If many of your employees commute into work, you could also encourage and support active travel. Install bike storage, showers and other facilities to enable staff to bike, run or walk to work.

3. Take notice

Paying more attention to the present moment can improve mental health. Biophilic design can help employees feel more connected to the world around them. Include plants and other greenery in your office to bring the outdoors in. If that’s not possible, access to fresh air and natural light, as well as natural finishes, can provide similar wellbeing benefits.

You could also try to take more notice of your own feelings and those of your colleagues. Taking a few minutes each day to ‘check-in’ with yourself is shown to improve self-understanding and enable you to make more positive choices. If you notice colleagues are acting differently reach out to see if they need support.

Biophilic design and comfy seating

4. Learn

Evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in educational activities makes a real difference to mental health. Take a look at your learning and development offer for staff and consider if this could be strengthened. The CIPD has some great advice on developing and delivering effective learning programmes

Don’t forget that learning doesn’t always have to be formal. ‘Softer’ learning opportunities like book clubs or cook-alongs can also provide the opportunity for employees to develop new skills and socialise in the process.

5. Give

Commit to kindness in your office. Lead the way by thanking staff for their input and encourage other managers to do the same. Give your time to your employees by asking how they are and really listen to their answer. Take their worries and stresses seriously and implement solutions where you can.

Another idea is to set an office challenge to raise money for a charity close to the heart of your employees. Find out if there’s a particular cause that means something to your teams and commit to giving to them this year. This doesn’t necessarily have to be financial giving. Volunteering is another great way to give to your community.

Supporting employee mental health

Creating a culture of wellbeing at work can really support employees with their mental health, however some colleagues may need extra support. The NHS has lots of advice about how to access mental health support services and when to get urgent help. Mind, the mental health charity, also has crisis resources available, as well as advice and support employer wanting to create a supportive and effective workplace.

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