What’s the first thing you do when you break a leg? Scream bloody murder then go to the hospital, right?
Yet some of us wait months, if not years, before seeking help with a mental health problem that can be as equally traumatising and disruptive. Why do we let things get so bad before asking for support?
Many argue that toxic taboos are the root cause, preventing people from voicing their concerns due to fear of embarrassment or being misunderstood.
We team up with training and coaching consultancy, Oakridge, to explore the ways we can normalise mental health discussions in the workplace to stamp out stigma and improve the lives of our employees.
Embracing a ‘Talk More’ Culture
Oakridge has been coaching business leaders through company transformations and providing training for high-performance teams since 1997.
It has a team of award-winning consultants, many of whom have previously held senior leadership positions. It also runs notable leadership and management events, such as the Talent Management Think Tank.
For We Are Adam, Partnering with Oakridge was a no-brainer. The coaching and training consultancy defines good practice – it is widely affiliated with official boards and bodies. And its focus on delivering the most credible and effective service possible mirrors our values entirely.
With people at the heart of everything Adam and Oakridge do, we are invested in learning how to manage mental health better at work.
Recently, we have strived to create safer environments for disclosure so those struggling can easily ask for help.
This is what we’ve learnt along the way. So you, like us, can make mental health and wellbeing central to your culture for healthier and happier employees.
One in Four People
As Natalie Griffins, Oakridge’s business support manager, highlights in her recent World Mental Health Day blog, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental health problems at least once in their lives.
Mind also found that, in the UK, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health issue in any given week.
Our nation is suffering from a widespread malady that is being exacerbated by our struggling healthcare services. While it’s not within our power to help the NHS directly, we can reduce the destructive impact of mental health disorders through our business cultures and environments.
How to Spot the Signs
It’s vital that managers can identify someone who is struggling with a mental illness. So, with the correct training, they can provide effective support to help those they’re responsible for.
Natalie Griffins points out how it isn’t difficult to spot visual signs of poor mental wellbeing. The physical manifestations can be very powerful and easy to identify:
- Mood swings
- High irritability
- Decreased productivity
- Socially withdrawn
- Lack of confidence
- Loss of appetite
You can read more about the symptoms of mental illness in The Mighty’s recent blog.
Providing specialist mental health training, such as a Mind course, equips managers with the knowledge needed to tackle problems responsibly. With managers they can trust, employees can confide in them confidently.
Once your managers have had expert training and can correctly spot the signs, they can take appropriate action to help individuals. By recognising employees on an individual level and the external factors that may be impacting their mental health, they can better understand their people and provide solutions that tackle the heart of the issue, not just the symptoms.
Subtle Changes Make Big Waves
Here are a few examples of effective actions that ignite positive changes on an individual level:
- Listen proactively and offer unbiased advice – follow Natalie’s tips for talking to enable productive, sensitive and effective conversations.
- Help employees find their ideal working style – for example, if an employee is struggling with childcare, you can arrange more flexible working hours to help reduce their stress.
- Run a well-being programme – an optional course on how to deal with mental health problems gives employees the tools needed to help themselves and others.
- Provide quiet rooms – for those dealing with anxiety or stress, offering a quiet working space can help them concentrate on their work without feeling overwhelmed.
- Create flexible return-to-work policies – if appropriate, increase employees hours gradually after sick-leave to they can return to full-time work when they’re ready.
- Give employees the time to seek help – by enabling staff to attend doctor or counselling appointments easily, you’re helping them get the treatment they need without added stress.
The biggest takeaway here is learning how to reduce stress in the workplace. Often mental illnesses spark a vicious cycle where the symptoms can cause further stress if they aren’t managed properly.
By making changes or acting as the above, you can offer tangible solutions to help your employees manage their well-being more effectively.
Why Office Environments Matter
People who work in an office with better lighting take significantly less sick days than those who don’t, according to one 2011 study.
The Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim also found that being inside buildings increases our stress levels whereas natural spaces help us feel relaxed.
The places we work in DO affect our mental health. Companies that recognise this link are improving their offices to help employees feel happier. This is a brilliant way to make mental health more central to your culture while creating comfortable areas for discussions.
Nature can help us achieve this. You could incorporate more natural light in your offices or use plants to create calmer spaces.
You could also take a page from our book. By taking part in a freshwalk, we allow our staff to escape the office for a day and unwind while networking in the great outdoors.
We also recently took the team on holiday to bond and shed the stress of city living. Check out our Porto trip video and be inspired!
What Can You Do To Help?
Even if a person is surrounded by people at work, they can still feel alone. How can you stop them from feeling isolated and helpless?
Use what you’ve learnt today to build a culture that’s safe for disclosure to give voice to those who need help. And by continuing the conversation on social media, you can join us in raising awareness to remove the social stigmas surrounding mental health.