2020 has been incredibly difficult for millions across the globe, and at Vertical Leap we’re committed to promoting wellbeing in the workplace. However, we understand that it can feel impossible to speak to colleagues or line managers about mental health, especially if we’re all working remotely. Time to Change reports the following figures:
- 1 in 6 UK workers experience depression, stress or anxiety.
- Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK.
- 1 in 10 people have resigned a job due to stress, 1 in 4 have thought about it.
- 19% of staff feel they can’t speak to managers about stress at work.
But it doesn’t have to be the case – there are things you can do to support your workforce and nurture conversations around wellbeing.
Start with your everyday conversations
To overcome the stigma of mental health, we need to give it a space to live. This is where our every day conversations can come in. When you’re having team catch ups, ask your employees “how are you feeling at the moment?” and take the time to actively listen. This means no interrupting, and no judgement.
Someone may not be struggling, but by reassuring them, for example by saying “I’m here if you ever want to talk about anything or need support”, you’re making it a lot less scary for them to reach out if they ever do need to.
Other ways to normalise conversations around mental health are endless, and they needn’t be big statements. Sharing how you feel with others or beginning a conversation around what makes you feel better after a stressful day, can plant the seeds of an open workplace.
If you’re an employer, how will you help employees manage workplace stress? Will you lead by example in promoting a positive life/work balance, or can you fund initiatives to promote wellbeing such as our weekly company-funded yoga sessions?
In times of uncertainty, everyone will be seeking reassurance and transparency around how they can keep on top of their wellbeing and what to do if they’re struggling to manage. You can show transparency by:
- Acknowledging that we’re all going through an overwhelming and unsettling experience
- Reminding staff that managers are there to support them and that you operate a no-judgement policy
- Discussing how you can help support someone experiencing poor mental health
- Sharing resources which staff can take a look through in private
- Setting up a dedicated channel, such as our wellbeing channel on Microsoft Teams, where employees can share tips and advice for maintaining mental health
- Offering access to counselling or other tailored wellbeing support through Employee Assistance Programmes
There will be times when people want to self-help rather than reach out, but you can support staff by creating a resource pool which allows anyone in need to explore different services.
Outside of work, I volunteer for Shout. Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Because of my work on the platform, I have first-hand experience of just how much resources can help those struggling with mental health.
When creating a resource hub, we would recommend starting with the following helplines, which are part of an exhaustive list shared on NHS UK. However, it doesn’t have to stop there – charities such as Mind, Time to Change, Young Minds, and more have plenty of onsite articles, blogs, PDFS and guides which you can easily hyperlink.
Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider’s Access Charge
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
Phone: 0800 326 5559
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm and 7pm to 10pm, and 2pm to 5pm on weekends)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Invest in workplace wellbeing
If your business has financial capacity, it makes a powerful statement to your staff to invest in wellbeing. Whether it’s to fund remote exercise classes, have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, or free downloads of Headspace, putting money into your employees wellbeing can go a long way.
Create a wellbeing initiative
No matter how busy everyone is, there should always be a time designated for mental wellbeing. Why not make your own workplace wellbeing initiative? Each week at Vertical Leap we have an all hands-on video catch up on Monday, a yoga session on Tuesday, and remote beers on a Friday to help keep us feeling connected.
There are lots of activities you can get involved in, many of which you can find on the Time to Change website here. Could you set up a poll to see which one staff would prefer to take part in? For example, you can offer the choice between a 45 minute ‘Lunch and Learn’ on mental health, a 15 minute mental health pub quiz, a 30 minute ‘Tea, Toast, and Chat’, or a 30 minute ‘Craftercise’ session.
Ensure thorough training for managers
Our final tip is potentially the most important – and that’s ensuring that the people in management positions are aware of mental health problems and how to help those with them.
This should involve training on the stigmas, myth vs fact, and common signs someone may be struggling. By training your managers, you can ensure that employees are treated appropriately in a respectful and non-judgemental environment. It takes a lot to trust someone with your struggles, so it’s vital to create a trusting space for colleagues to open up.
If you have the budget, you could even open in-house opportunities for mental health advocates to get Mental Health First Aider training. By training one or two employees who are passionate about mental health, they can then share their knowledge with the rest of your group.
No matter what, you are never alone. There are always people willing to listen – you just have to reach out.