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Stress is a common problem in the workplace, and it can have serious effects on our mental health.
When someone feels stressed or overwhelmed, their behaviour may alter. They may become a bit more twitchy, indecisive, withdrawn. Or they could appear to be less committed or motivated. Or you may notice an increase in energy that could be described as manic. Maybe they are easily irritated and snapping at colleagues.
The reality is that someone might behave in a way that is not ‘normal’ for them.
During this Mental Health awareness week, many businesses in Greater Birmingham came forward with their tips to manage staff wellbeing.
From Leyla Okhai, the CEO and Director of Diverse Minds UK Ltd and TEDx Speaker.
Do you send emails at all hours? Is this your preferred style of working? This may be the case, but do you know how this is received?
It could leave your team panicked checking their emails (or worse WhatsApp) throughout the night. This may sound ridiculous, but so many people feel they have to respond to emails from senior colleagues straight away. If you are a night owl who enjoys working this way and gets lots done, I am not asking you to stop. What I am suggesting you do, is add a sentence to your signature like this:
“I send emails at all hours, but don’t expect you to respond out of hours. I look forward to hearing from you during your working hours”.
That, or schedule emails to be sent during working hours or even save them to your drafts folder and send manually when your colleagues are in work.
This sends the message that I appreciate your work-life balance as a manager or colleague. I respect the choices you chose to make whilst having my working preferences. It also means staff have boundaries and know what the expectations are.
This is one of my favourite easy-to-use tools available. It enables managers to help identify work-related stressors in six key areas. This is done through a questionnaire that you and your team complete. The six Management Standards are (credit HSE website):
Demands – this covers workload, work patterns and the work environment.
Control – this relates to autonomy, so how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
Support – this includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
Relationships – this includes promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles (or indeed duplicating work in several areas of an organisation).
Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
Getting feedback from your team to find out where the pinch points are means stressors can be managed in a proactive way. It enables you to have meaningful discussions about what is going well and what needs to be improved in a holistic way.
When people are thanked for their work it builds rapport with managers and trust in the organisation.
Staff who are appreciated are more likely to be engaged and motivated.
Forward-thinking modern businesses know that staff happiness is the key to moral and financial success.
To start with, recognition can be a simple thank you or praise at a 1-2-1 for a particular piece of work. It is a good idea to recognise staff during team meetings and away days in a public arena, with their permission.
People will feel appreciated and valued in different ways, we all have our preferences. If you want to find out more about your appreciation style and be mindful of others’ preferences, I recommend the book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman.
It outlines how supervisors and managers can effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their staff. If you are looking for innovative ways to show appreciation, 6Q lists 40 fun ways to say thank you.
Not changing the system and continuing things in the same way. Staff feel they have no choice but to carry on.
Let’s make common sense, common practice.
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From CAPE Coaching & Development
It is important to start a conversation with your team member to let them know you are there to support them.
Share that you have noticed that their behaviour is different to normal and create a safe space for them to talk through with you what’s going on.
To create a safe environment, it’s important to ask some open questions, allow them time and space to answer and really listen. Bring empathy and curiosity to your conversation to enable them to discuss options and solutions to work through the challenges that are creating the stress.
If you are a manager you can encourage your team to;
CAPE Coaching & Development equip, empower, and enable brilliant people managers through development programmes, workshops and 1-2-1 coaching. Learn more by visiting www.wearyourcape.co.uk.
From Amanda Jackson, Beacon Mental Health Training
Even though there is a lot more awareness and talk within the media, on social platforms or by celebrities’ regarding mental health there still is a huge stigma.
If we only talk about mental health when there is a problem or when someone is struggling, then we are fuelling the negative stigma around mental health.
A very common question I ask delegates on my training courses is what does the term mental health means to them.
Most people answer as if I have asked them what poor mental health means or mental illness.
We need to realise that mental health can mean positive wellbeing too. Find ways to encourage positive wellbeing discussions, how are people thinking about their mental fitness proactively? Or, what selfcare activities are we encouraging?
These types of discussions give more balance to the topic of mental health and allow the conversations to become more common.
Whatever position you have in an organisation, it is important to lead by example.
The words you use, the actions you take really matter. If you don’t demonstrate self-care, don’t take breaks, work long hours, and pretend everything you do is perfect then the people around you will assume you expect them to do the same, even if you tell them differently.
People will watch and copy whether they want to or not. There is a lot of strength in vulnerability and showing your ‘human’ side, that yes you do make mistakes but learn from them; that you do take breaks because you understand the value of them; and you ensure you have a balance of work time but also down time for your personal life.
We know that everyone is different so we need to make sure we don’t use the same approach for everyone.
Some people will respond well to talking, others will need time to reflect or maybe find help elsewhere. Providing different types of support is important.
Having an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) can be hugely beneficial. However figures released by Headspace show that even though 93 per cent of employers have EAP, only 50 per cent of employees are aware of it and only 3-5 per cent of employees actually use it so awareness and training is crucial.
Providing employees with wellbeing apps like Headspace or Calm can mean they have access outside of work. Putting up posters of the trained Mental Health First Aiders and information about mental Health Charities like Samaritans, Papyrus or CALM can be useful too.
We often think of self-care as a luxury, something we do when we have time and because life is so fast paced who generally feels like they have the time for such luxuries.
We need to stop thinking like this. Self-care isn’t a luxury, it is a necessity because life is so fast paced!
To keep up with the to do lists, the emails, the life admin we need to make sure we look after ourselves.
There is a reason we get told to put on our own oxygen masks first before helping others when listening to the safety briefing on an airplane.
Encouraging staff to talk about what relaxes them, destresses or energises them and how they ensure they do these things is crucial to staff wellbeing. If people are feeling burnt out and/or overwhelmed they will not be working efficiently.
It is important to note that these self-care activities could be carried out at work or during personal time and both should be encouraged.
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From Dr Mahnaz Hashmi MB BCh MRCPsych MSc, consultant psychiatrist and founder of Medstars
The stress response system is driven by perceived “threat” i.e worry. By sharing worries with people close to you it is possible to get a more balanced perspective.
Often, internal thoughts grow more distressing the more we think about them. When we externalise thoughts (talking) the thoughts lose their “power” and “meaning” and lower our anxiety.
So the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” actually has some scientific evidence behind it!
Additionally, neuroscientist, John Arden, author of The Brain Bible uses the acronym SEEDS which stands for Sleep, Exercise, Education, Diet and Social Contact.
This is a basic human need and Matthew Walker, Professor of Sleep at Harvard University and author of Why We Sleep (2017), cannot emphasise enough the benefit of sleep for our mental well-being. You can read Medstars’ review of Why We Sleep, here.
Regular activity helps to balance our autonomic nervous system and lower the fight/flight response. This does not have to be intensive exercise but can be 30-40 minutes of brisk walking 3-4 times weekly.
The brain needs stimulus for growth! Lifelong learning enables the brain to grow and focus rather than focusing on things often outside of our control. Learning does not have to be a formal course but can include visiting new places and reading interesting books.
This is a growing area of research and we are now learning that the brain responds better to a healthy diet. A healthy diet improves our energy levels which are lowered in times of stress.
Research into emotional resilience points to social and family contact as making up 50% of our ability to bounce back from adverse/stressful life events.”
Proactive treatment such as medication or therapy can make a huge difference in helping prevent a deterioration in personal and professional relationships.
Encouraging your employees to seek timely help from their own GP, or a readily accessible private GP if this is a benefit you offer them, is a good way to get the ball rolling in the first instance.
For more complex problems, a thorough assessment by an independent occupational health physician or a private psychiatrist can be instrumental in helping recovery and the retention of valuable employees, and making them feel valued and looked after by their senior managers.
Navigating such private healthcare services on a pay-as-you-go basis can be surprisingly affordable in comparison with traditional health insurance providers.
From Sheila Lord, BMR Health and Wellbeing Limited
Establishing open lines of two-way communication is crucial for creating a supportive environment where staff members feel comfortable discussing their concerns and voicing their ideas.
Encourage regular feedback sessions, team meetings, and one-on-one conversations to address any issues or challenges they may be facing.
If you are going to invest in doing this then you must also make sure that you are actively listening and responding appropriately to their ideas, suggestions, and grievances, ensuring that they feel valued and heard.
By creating a safe space for open communication, you can identify and resolve potential sources of stress and open creative sharing spaces which can lead to great change in your business.
Post covid we have seen far more emphasis placed on having the right work-life balance.
Businesses need to encourage a healthy work-life balance by implementing policies that support flexible working hours, telecommuting, or remote work options, if feasible.
Recognising the importance of personal time and encouraging staff to take regular breaks, to use their allocated holiday leave and take some time off.
One of the best ways you can do this is to lead by example.
Making sure that your staff have a healthy balance between work and their personal life, contributes to their overall wellbeing and will ultimately reduce the potential for burnout.
From Gosia Federowicz, Co-Founder of Wellbeing in Your Office
Creating a supportive and inclusive workplace culture is key to promoting staff wellbeing.
Employers can achieve this by fostering a culture of trust, respect, and inclusivity. This can be done by encouraging open communication, acknowledging, and embracing diversity, and creating opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.
By creating a workplace culture that values and supports employee wellbeing, employers can foster a sense of belonging and loyalty among their staff, which can lead to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and overall success for the organization.
Developing a wellbeing policy and strategy for the organization is a crucial step in promoting staff wellbeing.
This policy can outline the organization's approach to staff wellbeing, including the strategies and resources available to support employees.
Employers can involve employees in the development of this policy to ensure that it reflects the needs and priorities of the workforce. The policy should also be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it remains relevant and effective.
Employers should also regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their wellbeing programs. This can involve gathering feedback from employees through surveys or focus groups, monitoring absenteeism rates, and tracking the use of wellbeing resources.
By evaluating the effectiveness of wellbeing programs, employers can make informed decisions about where to invest resources and make improvements.
Regular monitoring can also help to identify emerging issues and enable employers to take action to address them before they escalate.