May 6, 2022

May 9-15 marks Mental Health Awareness Week – an essential opportunity for businesses and organisations to raise awareness of mental health and de-stigmatise wellbeing support in the workplace.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is centred around loneliness and, contrary to public perception, feeling lonely doesn't necessarily mean you have no one nearby.

Leading life coach, boundaries expert and author of The Joy of Being Selfish, Michelle Elman, told Get-Optimal: “Loneliness is a normal human emotion. It is a sign that one of your needs isn't being met. This could include your need for connection, community, intimacy or affection.

“Therefore, it is essential to realise that the solution to loneliness isn’t necessarily being around people. This is because being around people who don’t understand you can make you feel lonelier. We need to learn the difference between loneliness and being alone.

“We can also experience loneliness when we self-abandon in order to be liked by others. Often, people associate loneliness with being single, but you can experience loneliness in a relationship, surrounded by friends/family and multiple different contexts.”

In line with Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re sharing our five top tips to help companies understand how they might better support their employees' mental health and stress levels – whether they are working a hybrid job, from home or in the office.

1. Connect
Post lockdown, it’s never been more critical to ensure that your team is connected positively – with each other, with you and with your clients. Keep your team updated regarding company processes and information, and highlight your open-door policy so that your staff know you are open to questions, suggestions, challenges and, yes, complaints. Consider scheduling group meetings and team training/bonding sessions which encourage discussion.

2. Be active
“People who take part in regular physical activity have up to a 30 per cent lower risk of depression. Exercise is proven to have a hugely positive impact on the quality of life of people affected by mental health problems – it can improve our mood, ease stress, reduce anger, alleviate anxiety and slow cognitive decline. It is also known to help us sleep better and build confidence.” Mental Health UK

If it was needed, proof that the importance of physical exercise cannot be underestimated. Whether office-based or working remotely, your employees are encouraged to exercise consistently – be it before or after work or during a lunch hour.

If the weather isn’t playing ball, there are apps and YouTube videos offering online exercise classes, including aerobics, yoga and Zumba.

3. Keep learning
Learning new skills can give your staff a sense of achievement and a new confidence. Urge your team to sign up for any training courses that your organisation offers, in addition to external activities: perhaps 2022 is the year they will learn a new language – there are free apps such as Duolingo available – or get involved in amateur dramatics? Creative activities can reduce stress, and the freedom of self-expression can be incredibly liberating.

4. Stress the importance of  a good night’s sleep
Sleep and mental health go hand in hand, impacting the other. Practising good sleep hygiene gives us all a chance to recharge, not only physically but also mentally.

You can aid sleep hygiene as an employer by encouraging employees to finish work on time. In today’s 24/7 work culture, it’s all too easy for employees to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of projects and deadlines, so ensure that each staff member isn’t feeling pressure to work late into the night to complete their projects and tasks.

5. Educate
One way to mark Mental Health Awareness Week is to run mental health awareness workshops to help your team identify if they and/or their co-workers may be struggling, and how to approach the topic – as many as 60 per cent of people with mental health issues feel embarrassed to discuss them with their employers.

To combat this, ask managers or more senior staff members to share their experiences – so long as they are comfortable doing so.

Last word
One final takeaway” remember that mental health is not just something to raise awareness of in May, but an issue which needs to be addressed all year round.

Daniel Fellows

PS: For further information and support, take time to check out the following links:

*Image courtesy of Unsplash