Why is staff awareness of mental wellbeing so important?
So many things impact on our mental wellbeing, whether in the workplace or in our personal lives. Raising staff awareness around mental wellbeing can help create an open culture where individuals are more prepared to talk to each other.
Mental health has been a hot topic in recent decades, and with good reason. For too long mental illness was a taboo subject – something people avoided talking about.
These days, we understand the importance of taking care of our mental health in the same way we look after our physical health.
And in the same way that it’s important that we understand things that might impact our physical health, we need to be aware of things that might affect our mental health and that of others.
Stress, anxiety and depression can affect people at any time, but certain times of the year can add extra strain, making people more susceptible to mental illness.
Taking care of mental health in winter
The cold, dark winter months can have a huge impact on mood, but for some, the impact can be more severe. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 2 million people in the UK.
Sometimes known as the winter blues, it can range from a low mood and overeating to major depression.
Christmas can be another huge stressor. For some people, Christmas can be a very lonely time. For others, the cost implications can be a cause of anxiety. And for many, the pressure of buying gifts, hosting and attending family gatherings, and keeping on top of social obligations can be stressful.
Even the thought of attending the staff Christmas party can be anxiety-inducing for people who struggle with social interactions.
Then comes January. A long, cold month. The excitement of Christmas is over, and summer feels so far away.
January also boasts the highest divorce rate. In some cases, the cause of divorce is directly related to something that happened over Christmas. In other cases, it’s been on the cards for a while, but the agreement has been to wait until after Christmas for the children’s sake.
Even the most amicable of break-ups can be sad and stressful and take their toll on your mental health.
Of course, mental illness isn’t limited to the winter months. Suicide rates are consistent throughout the year, with a slight increase in the spring.
And that’s why it’s so important that everyone plays a part in understanding and talking about mental health.
Why organisations need to prioritise workplace wellbeing
We spend a lot of our time at work. There are 168 hours in a week, and if you work forty of them, that equates to just under 25%.
Because work is such a major part of our lives, it can have a huge positive or negative effect on mental health. Over 12% of all sickness absence days in the UK are attributed to mental health conditions.
23% of adults say that work causes them stress. And 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of work-related stress, anxiety and depression, costing £28.3 billion a year. (Source: Champion Health).
With costs this high, businesses and organisations can’t afford to ignore mental health.
If you aren’t taking measures to look after your employees’ mental wellbeing, you run the risk of high absence rates, poor staff retention, and difficulty attracting quality employees.
It’s not enough to simply acknowledge mental illness – you need to take measures to protect the wellbeing of your teams.
Common causes of workplace stress and anxiety
There are many things that can cause employees to feel stressed and anxious at work. Sometimes one single thing can cause illness – other times, it can be a build-up of several smaller things. Here are some of the common contributors to workplace stress and anxiety:
- High workloads
- Tight deadlines
- Lack of support from manager or colleagues
- Unrealistic targets
- Inadequate training or resources
- Bullying, harassment or discrimination
- Difficult customers
- Not feeling listened to or valued
- Feeling unsafe (physically or psychologically)
- Conflict with colleagues
- Organisational change
- Job insecurity
- Over-supervision or lack of autonomy
- Lack of progression opportunity
- Inadequate equipment or poor working conditions
Workplace trauma can also have a huge impact on wellbeing. For example, being caught up in an armed robbery, witnessing an accident, or the sudden death of a colleague. When there is a major incident such as this, it can be hugely beneficial to get external support (i.e., counselling) for the affected team members.
Improving mental wellbeing through staff awareness
Employees who don’t know how to support their colleagues will find it harder to speak up when they spot signs that someone else is struggling.
Investing in awareness training gives your employees the tools and confidence to start meaningful discussions and create a supportive culture. It also demonstrates to your employees that you are invested in their wellbeing, making them feel more positive about opening up.
Meritec’s Focus on Mental Wellbeing digital course is already being successfully delivered to hundreds of thousands of employees in the UK public and private sectors.
This short but valuable course enables staff to understand how they can improve their mental fitness and sustain stamina, resilience and energy during challenging circumstances and over long periods.
Sector-specific versions of the course are available to meet the individual needs of councils, housing associations, schools, academies, colleges and universities, and private sector organisations.
All Meritec courses are developed in conjunction with a subject matter expert. Our Focus on Mental Wellbeing course was created with David Beeney, founder of Breaking the Silence Ltd.
Our digital learning products are extremely cost-effective and can be hosted on our customisable digital learning platform or your existing LMS.
You can learn more about our digital learning products here or contact our team to find out how our courses can benefit your organisation.