Eight hours a day, seven days a week, 40 hours a week… We spend a great deal of time at work, and that’s not even counting the time spent getting to and from the office and any extra shifts or overtime. If you consider your workplace to be your home away from home, then you’re certainly not alone. But what if this mindset is having a detrimental impact on your mental health?
Mental health is starting to gain more attention, and rightly so, with the TUC reporting work-related stress as “growing epidemic”. Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important for employers to start doing anything they can to make their workplaces more mentally friendly. But just how can they go about this? YES Glazing has six tips that you can implement into your office starting today.
1. Work/life balance
We all want to do well at our jobs. And who doesn’t have lofty career goals? But expecting your staff to answer emails on weekends and get in early and leave late is pushing us ever closer towards a burnout culture.
The term ‘work-life balance’ is being thrown around more and more. But rather than just adding a catchy buzzword to your list of priorities, why not actually go the extra mile and actually implement helpful strategies into your day-to-day? Here are a few ideas…
- Be flexible. Flexi-time is a great little perk that allows your employees to avoid peak travel times and work around childcare commitments by coming into work a little earlier and leaving earlier, or coming in later and leaving later
- Or go one step further and let people work from home
- Help with childcare. Could you offer childcare vouchers? Allow flexible working arrangements to be used for doctors appointments and when kids are sick – you never know how much it helps!
- Organize regular team outings. Down tools early and head out for a drink and some grub for some much-needed bonding time
2. Change the office
If you spend upwards of eight hours a day in the same building, wouldn’t you want that building to at least look nice? The surrounding environment of your workplace has a tremendous impact on mental health, and here are some tips on making sure it’s as comforting and healthy as possible…
- Focus on natural light. Fluorescent bulbs are harsh and unnatural – not good for your eyes and brain. On the other hand, sunlight and natural light streaming in through big windows have been proven to encourage better moods, productivity and even boost your concentration
- If you ever work from home, don’t overlook your home office set up. Opt for a bright and airy room that allows as much light in as possible
- The argument of open plan vs closed office sparks much debate to this day. Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, being able to get up and move around and deal with colleagues face-to-face can be a real mood booster
- Create ‘breakout’ spaces where your staff can zone out, catch up with others about non-work topics are even play a few games on their lunch. It can even be just a simple picnic bench or new comfy chairs but it’ll go a long way towards boosting relaxation and reducing stress
- Take a look around you. How’s your décor looking recently? A fresh, well-designed and modern workspace can make a world of difference to how your staff feels. Focus on bright and airy colors that make the space feel bigger; whites, off-whites, blues, greens, and yellows are the best colors to inspire creativity
“When it comes to improving mental health, your office space may be the last thing you think of,” says Tom Ellis from YES Glazing. “But the reality of the matter is that it can actually have the biggest impact, whether you spend all day in an office or freelance from home. Let in as much natural light as possible to lift your mood. Think about making your surroundings as bright, airy and light as possible – whites and off-whites are perfect colours to brighten up spaces, complemented by bright blues or greens to spark ideas.”
3. Start talking
One of the hardest things to do is to talk about mental health, but it’s also one of the most important things. If you only make one change to your office this year, then let it be this one.
The barriers are breaking down and the stigmas are disappearing, but it’s being done slowly and there’s always more than can be done. Encourage your staff to know that doors are open to talk about whatever may be impacting them.
Nick Davies, leading UK psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, says opening up the conversation needs to be a top priority:
“Workplaces need to be doing a lot more to find out about and treat their employees’ mental health. In everyday life, most people, especially men, fear talking about mental health issues for fear of being judged, now imagine you are worried you could lose your livelihood too by talking about it and you get an idea of how big the problem is. Not only are people fearful of opening up, but they are fearful of the repercussions, so mental health needs to be taken more seriously but when people are supported and given the right help you will increase productivity and loyalty to your business.”
- Mental health education
Once your staff know your door is always open, it’s a great first step. The second is making sure that those who listen are educated and trained to listen.
Arranging for staff members to become fully trained Mental Health First Aiders, is a fantastic step to take. Just like physical first aid, these trained people will be able to make a decision about the next steps for their wellbeing.
“Educating people about mental health is key to creating an open and honest culture of wellbeing in the workplace,” said Mary Wallace, HR Officer at Northumberland National Park.
“In the past two years, Northumberland National Park has rolled out mental health resilience training for all employees to help them recognize the signs of mental ill-health, know how to respond to it and seek support. We have also appointed mental health advocates to give employees a dedicated point of contact for any issues they might have.
“Designed to create a long-term culture change across the Authority which will benefit employees for years to come, our vision is to create a workplace environment where people feel like they can reach out for help if they need it. Employees are fully supported and there is no shame in talking about mental health.
“Through sharing experiences and creating the space to talk freely and honestly, businesses can really advocate positive mental health in the workplace and help to reduce the stigma around it.”
5. Prioritize wellness
In case you didn’t know, people in the UK can spend roughly eight hours a day in the office. That’s a long time to be sat down and staring at a computer screen, and we all know it’s not the healthiest thing you can be doing with your time. Encourage your staff to get up and move as much as possible in the working day…
- Instead of a tuck shop, order an office fruit basket to be delivered every week
- Organize a group of people to head out on lunchtime walks – if the weather is on your side. Even just 20 minutes of walking can help improve moods and refresh the brain ready for the second half of the day
- Encourage people to get up and walk around every hour to take a break from their screen
- Bring a water cooler into the office to make it easier for people to fill up their water bottles
- Book fitness classes or yoga or meditation to come in once a week during lunchtimes
Be gracious and positive
Being recognized and applauded for your hard work is a feeling like no other. But it also feels great when you pass on that feeling to another.
Showing and receiving gratitude can have a wonderful impact on our happiness levels. It can even be as small as a handwritten post-it not on the desk of someone who has been having a particularly hard time, or a special lunch treat if your team has worked particularly hard on a project.
By working together to build a culture of recognition and gratitude in your workplace, you will be helping to drastically reduce stress, boost positivity, encourage motivation and build strong and lasting bonds between colleagues.
About the author: Tom Ellis, Managing Director at YES Glazing.