Mental Health Awareness Week is 18-24 September this year.
It’s a fantastic initiative that shines an annual light on the importance of employee wellness and good mental health.
This year the focus of Mental Health Awareness Week is equipping yourself with proven tools to boost your mental health.
We thought we would explore this concept in relation to the workplace, as this can be an area of prolific stress for many people.
So, this September (and beyond), let’s shine a light on how important it is to prioritise employee wellness and the ways that you can do that in your workplace.
Are You Prioritising Employee Wellness?
Prioritising employee wellness is an important part of being a responsible employer. But wellness is not just attributed to one thing. To achieve true employee wellness, you should look at things holistically. These are some of the areas you should be considering:
Physical health and mental health are closely connected. So, it stands to reason that encouraging good physical health can positively influence your team’s mental health.
Regular physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain. These chemicals are known as “feel-good” neurotransmitters and play a crucial role in regulating mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. Getting active also helps to lower your cortisol levels, allowing your body to better manage and reduce stress.
All this activity contributes towards better sleep, improved cognitive function, stronger self-esteem, and greater emotional regulation from a strong mind-body connection. Basically, strong physical health is good news for employee wellbeing!
How can you achieve it?
Here are some strategies you can use to encourage good physical health in your workplace:
- Wellness Programmes: Fitness challenges, health assessments, and nutrition workshops are all examples of ways you can get your team to focus on their own physical health.
- Active Workspaces: Give your team the chance to be passively active with things like standing desks, walking meetings, and space for stretching or moving around.
- Active Commuting: Make it easy for your team to use a bike or their feet to get to work by providing bike racks, showers and changing facilities.
- Workplace Fitness: You could even arrange on or offsite fitness classes, yoga sessions, or group walks – promote them well and make the options easily accessible.
- Supportive Policies: Support good physical health with policies like paid time off for medical appointments, discounted gym memberships, flexible working hours to play sports or participate in other physical activities and allocated physical activity breaks.
Financial problems can be a common source of stress and anxiety, which can negatively impact mental health of your team. After all, it’s hard to be relaxed and happy when worrying about money.
Financial health is a growing concern in the current climate. The cost of living seems to rise weekly (without much sign of slowing), and it doesn’t help that a potential recession is looming. Protecting the financial health of your team can give them a greater sense of security, improved relationships and better quality of sleep, which all contribute to stronger mental health.
How can you do it?
The first step in creating an environment of good financial habits is to ensure you pay your team correctly and on time for every pay cycle. Then, the second step is providing opportunities for good financial education.
Education around Kiwisaver, budgeting, medical insurance, and general financial awareness are very important to share. It’s also important to educate your team that good financial health is a gradual process and can require consistent budgeting, saving and planning to achieve. There are some excellent resources to support this education process on Sorted.
Finally, keep an eye on the individual members of your team to ensure that financial stress isn’t having a significant impact on their mental health. Make sure you have the appropriate support from trained mental health professionals to call on if you feel that financial stress is setting in.
Regular check-ins with your team can help to promote good mental health in the workplace. It is an opportunity to foster open communication, show recognition and appreciation, offer feedback, problem solve, and affirm the support system that is available to them. These check-ins contribute towards maintaining a positive work environment and fostering wellbeing amongst your team.
How can you do it?
Make regular check-ins a priority for team members that are on site and those that work remotely too. That personal touch will remind them that they are a key part of the organisation.
These catch ups can be an informal chat or a more structured meeting. Try to connect with each member of your team monthly at least, or more regularly if you see that anyone is struggling.
Striking the right balance between professional responsibilities and personal life can result in reduced stress levels, increased happiness and improved mental wellbeing, which are all essential for good mental health.
But it’s important to remember that balance can look different for everyone. Depending on the individual, balance can involve setting personal boundaries, managing their time effectively, having flexible conditions, and having their needs communicated and heard. Achieving balance is an ongoing process and adjustments might be needed as circumstances change.
How can you achieve it?
As an employer, you can play a crucial role in helping your team achieve a healthy work/life balance. And it is worth achieving it too. Managing to create an environment of balance can lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity, plus all-round positive vibes.
Here are some ways you can help your team find their balance:
- Flexible working hours and the potential to work remotely (if possible)
- Set clear job and performance expectations and listen to feedback about whether the expectations are realistic and workable
- Cut out unnecessary meetings and encourage collaborative communication channels instead
- Monitor and manage workloads to prevent excessive stress
- Encourage regular breaks during the day and longer-term annual leave to recharge batteries
- Provide time management training
- Encourage disconnecting from work related duties outside working hours
- Have your managers model healthy work/life balance behaviours to lead by example
- Provide training on how to set appropriate boundaries so that work does not encroach on personal time
Lead From The Front
There is a reason that flight attendants tell you to put your own mask on before helping others in an emergency. You can’t possibly help anyone else if you don’t have your own ducks in a row first! This applies to mental health in the workplace too.
It is important for leaders to consider their own mental health and lead from the front in this area. Burnout is a real threat for everyone, you are not immune just because you are management. In fact, you can be at greater risk due to the pressure of the role. So, ensure your managers and team leaders continue to look inwardly as well as caring for their teams.
Let’s Talk About It
Encourage your team to talk about any problems they are experiencing in the workplace. This will help to encourage perseverance and consolidation at the same time.
Communication will be a big part of highlighting the importance of good mental health in the workplace. So, you want to empower your managers with valuable tools that allow them to help others through effective communication and understanding.
How can you do it?
Having a mental health first aider in your workplace can be invaluable. If you don’t currently have one, visit Tepou for a list of accredited instructors.
You should also ensure there are plenty of Mental Health resources available for your team. A great place to find these resources is on the NZ Mental Health Awareness Week website.
Prioritising Employee Wellbeing And Mental Health
We don’t have to tell you that employee wellness is really important. Without it, you can’t hope to have a positive workplace with happy and productive employees.
So, how do you put employee wellbeing at the forefront?
A great way to do it is to engage the services of an expert HR team. HR will ensure you shine a spotlight on the HUMAN element of your workplace; after all, it is literally in the name! Rest assured that HR experts know a thing or two about building great, positive spaces for humans in the workplace.
Sometimes it can be difficult to establish whether you have effective employee wellness policies or if there are some areas that might need work. The team at Spice HR are some of those HR experts that can help you to establish the right wellness practices to suit your team and management.
Get in touch with us today to make your employee’s wellbeing a priority.