Talking about mental health in the workplace

Discussing mental health can still be taboo in the workplace. The human cost is well-documented, but there is also a strong business case for changing this – a recent report from the Business in the Community (BITC) Workwell group suggests that this is having a detrimental effect on the productivity of UK businesses.

Figures from the report suggest that 15.2million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. This figure was 11.8 million in 2010, and the dramatic increase is a worrying rise.

It also poses a question:  if one in six employees are experiencing difficulty with their mental health, why is it that many businesses do not have in place plans to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees?

Louise Aston from the the Workwell campaign called this a result of the ‘culture of silence’ in this Guardian article. But how can we break down this culture?

Thankfully, the BITC group have been taking positive action: a list of the great and good have taken the Time to Change pledge  including American Express, BaxterStorey, BT; Bupa, BITC, Friends Life, Mars; National Grid, Procter & Gamble, Right Management, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Santander

This move towards businesses recognising the need to address mental health as a serious concern suggest that we can perhaps be hopeful for a future where mental health is no longer such an unspeakable topic. And with people such as Ruby Wax calling for those who are experiencing poor mental health to speak out – we can perhaps look forward this taboo in the workplace is finally broken down.

What is love?

In case you didn’t guess from all of the hearts, red roses and chocolates that have besieged the high street over the last few weeks, today is Thursday 14th of February: Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day can be stressful. People who are in relationships worry about what to get each other (Will they like it? Will it be good enough? Is it too predictable? Have a spent enough?). Those who don’t have a partner can sometimes feel sad or lonely and convince themselves that they are the only single person on the planet. At the very least, the day can bring confusion about what people should be feeling versus what they are feeling, in or out of relationships.

heart

Photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani / Foter.com / CC BY

The top question asked of Google last year was: What is love? A difficult question with many answers and even more interpretations, the Oxford English Dictionary describes love as “a feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone”. The definition doesn’t mention soul mate, partner or ‘the One’ so why do we so closely associated a partner with the ability to participate in a day that celebrates love?

Whether you’re single or coupled-up why not use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate all of your relationships (romantic or not)?

Instead of trying to prove your love for someone on a single day with grand gestures, take the time to show your appreciation for the people in your life who are important all 365 days of the year.

  • Reach out to friends and arrange a dinner with a group to catch up on news.
  • Take today as an opportunity to spend some time to yourself. Book a massage, have a bubble bath, buy yourself a present, make your favourite meal, or do an activity that you enjoy. Today doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money, use the day as an opportunity to appreciate you.
  • Visit family members you don’t see very often. By spending the day with them you will make them feel special and may be surprised at how good you feel too.
  • Curl up in front of the TV and watch a film. Love Actually was recently voted the most romantic film in a LoveFilm poll. You may not want to watch a romantic film but try taking them as a bit of entertainment and appreciating that most are unrealistic – no one has ever fallen into a lake as often as Colin Firth!

You have the power to choose whether you want Valentine’s Day to be a positive or negative day. It shouldn’t matter whether you have a significant other or not.

And finally, if all else fails, remember that in less than 24 hours it’s Friday – a much better day by far!

Photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani / Foter.com / CC BY

International Women’s Day is just 6 weeks away

International Women’s Day is on Friday 8 March 2013 and thousands of events are being held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. resolve is excited to announce that we will be hosting a well-being event in Edinburgh city centre.

Come along and bring a friend!

Hosted by the local ‘Mumpreneur’ Anna Louise Simpson, AKA “Mama Tea“. Be inspired as she shares her fascinating journey from corporate lawyer, to oil painter, to full time mum and founder of her awarding winning herbal tea company.

It will be a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of opportunity for proper “me-time”, whether it’s chatting and sharing experiences with fellow guests, having a pamper at one of the beauty stations or benefiting from the coaching and well-being experts who will be on hand running workshops and providing expert advice.

Not only will you be looking after your own well-being but by buying a ticket you are also helping to support women around the world. £5 from every ticket sold will help to support the excellent work of the international charity, Women for Women International.

let's hear it for the girls....

Time to Change Pledge

Today resolve became one of over 30,000 companies and individuals to sign the ‘Time To Change’ pledge, which encourages everyone to stop the stigma associated with mental health.

Nine out of ten people with mental health problems have faced discrimination.

image taken from time-to-change.org.uk

image taken from time-to-change.org.uk

For UK businesses mental health is a real issue. Stress has overtaken physical health problems such as back pain, to become the number one cause of long-term sick leave (CiPD). Every person needs to do their bit to change the culture within businesses to open up discussions about mental health and the impact of poor mental health on an organisation and its employees.

Everyone has mental health.

Do your bit and sign the pledge at www.time-to-change.org.uk

January blues

My birthday is in Japarty on....nuary.

I mention this because despite it being my birthday, even I find January a rubbish month. The thrill of Christmas is gone, everyone is on a detox (no birthday drinks for me then), pay day seems like an elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and it’s dark …. all the time!  January doesn’t really fill me with positivity and it seems that I’m not alone.

The Samaritans report that more calls are made about financial worries in January than at any other time of the year as our pre-Christmas credit card bills land on the front mat with a thud.  And it’s not just money worries that are affecting people’s mood. Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Relate, the relationship charity, reports a 52% increase in the number of clients attending with relationship problems.

“We expect this week to be the busiest ever for Relate as people get back to work and think about their relationships following the Christmas break”

Adding to my pessimistic view of my birth month is the arrival of ‘Blue Monday’. If you’ve read any newspapers today you are likely to know what I’m talking about.  The third Monday of January is apparently the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday lands on 21st January….today.  After all this is it any wonder that we all feel a little flat in January?

But how helpful is all of this doom and gloom?

As a psychologist I know that where we choose to focus our attention has an impact on our mood. If we focus on all of the negative things that are happening, then this will likely have an adverse impact on our mood. This is true for any time of the year so why pick on January?

With a little digging you are likely to find out that Blue Monday was actually invented in the mid-2000s by Sky Travel to boost holiday sales. Often cited as a ‘fact’ this label was a PR spin that isn’t based on any scientific research. Another well-known ‘fact’ about January is that it is the month with the highest suicide rate: not true. Research isn’t consistent but reports spring, summer or autumn as the peak depending on what you read.  Winter isn’t even mentioned.

It is true that people report more financial and relationship difficulties in January than other months but perhaps this is a good thing. I see it as people taking advantage of a new year to face up to problems that started long before January even began. Perhaps the ‘enough is enough’ mentality is at its strongest in January and it makes us galvanize into changing our lives for the better?

With a new year comes New Year’s resolutions and I only have one this year…… be kinder to January and in turn, it might me kinder to me.

environmental stresses?

Imagine if you could go to work and play computer games, take a dip in the company swimming pool or perhaps phone the onsite masseur to help relieve your knotted shoulders. If you work for the internet search engine giant Google this could be a reality.

More and more companies around the world are taking employee wellbeing  seriously and recognising the benefit of happy staff through increased productivity and profit.  The founder of Technogym, Nerio Alessandri, had new offices built with employee wellness in mind. It’s about putting the focus on the employees,’ says Alessandri who promotes employee wellness as a way of life.

Alessandri’s 1000 employees are well looked after and he feels this investment is worth it for the success of his company, ‘Happy, healthy workers are proven to be more productive. We spend a significant part of our day at work. Not only does a more positive, creative and productive workforce mean less healthcare costs for the system but a healthy and efficient body goes hand in hand with creativity and intellect.’ During their two-hour lunch break employees can choose from a range of healthy lunches prepared with fresh, local ingredients and are encouraged to do some physical activity with access to a gym and basketball court.

The wellbeing services and facilities offered by Google and Technogym might not be realistic for your business but small shifts in culture can have a dramatic effect on employee wellbeing.

Simple steps to promote employee wellbeing could include:

  • Discouraging working through lunch or eating at desks.
  • Being flexible with breaks. Do you have a dedicated area for employees to relax on breaks?
  • Encourage physical activity. This could be cycle to work schemes, setting up a football league or discounted membership from the local gym
  • Encourage employee to use all of their holiday allowance. Employees come back relaxed and are more productive in the long run.
  • Open door policies. Are senior managers easily reached so employees can to discuss their concerns? Dealing with stresses quickly can stop situations spiralling.
  • Encouraging face-to-face communication. Emails are vital to modern business but not everything needs to be done via a computer. Human interaction can do wonders to improve mood and foster strong working relationships.
  • Getting some greenery such as a few plants and having access to plenty of fresh air. When the office is an inviting place to come to employees are more motivated and productive.

At resolve we would love to hear from you. Have you or your office implemented any changes that have improved employee wellbeing? Share it with other businesses and help to spread the message of employee wellbeing at the heart of successful business.

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