Looking after each other - let’s keep talking: 5 simple ways you can improve your mental health at work 

Mental health is a topic that has gradually emerged from being a taboo to become an essential conversation for us all. The importance of good mental wellbeing is now widely recognised, and lots of steps in the right direction have been taken to encourage people to speak out.

However, whilst acknowledging that looking after our mental health is necessary, it’s not as straight-forward to implement this into tangible actions. This is something that has been amplified during lockdown, so we wanted to engage in the conversation of mental health at work by outlining some simple steps you can follow to integrate positive habits into your daily life.

Our recent Balanced Webinar touched on the topics of flexibility and visibility in the workplace. We were joined by Vic Heyward, the Brand Marketing and Communications Manager at software development company Bright and Jo Loughran, Director of mental health charity Time to Change - both shared their experiences of the importance of workplace mental health. Below we have taken their best pieces of advice and put together 5 tips which you can implement to facilitate better mental health in the workplace

Tip #1: Take time off

New mental health research from Time To Talk shows that out of 1/3 of people in the South West felt like they needed to take time off during lockdown, but only 15% actually did.

Many of us are guilty of not wanting to take time off, something which has been further exacerbated by working from home, as it may seem like a pointless time to use precious holiday.

But we should remember that working from home is not adequate rest; it’s important to have a break to prevent burn out In the long run. The benefits of this are two-fold as not only will taking a break allow for some time to recharge, it also means that we are more likely to have increased focus and productivity when we do eventually return to work.

Tip #2: Regularly check in with your colleagues:

Remote working means that having regular, non-work rated conversations with our colleagues has become less frequent. Lunch chat and water cooler conversation can sometimes be the highlight of the workday, but due its spontaneous nature, it can be difficult to schedule in time for this. However, that’s exactly what we should be doing.

Scheduling even just a 15-minute call with an employee or colleague to check in on their wellbeing and see if they need help with anything can go a long way. Some members of staff may feel anxious about being the one opening up about how they’re genuinely feeling, so taking the initiative and asking them how they’re doing can make it easier for them to unload. Initiatives such as finishing an hour early on Fridays to reconvene are also great way to connect with one another, which is one thing that the staff at Bright do to allow themselves to unwind after a week of work.

Tip #3: Make full use of your lunch break

It can be easy to not set yourself a proper lunch break when working remotely. You may no longer need to meal prep the night before work or be able to sit down with someone physically to have your lunch with.

However, your lunch break can be a great opportunity to get away from the screen for an hour a day. Not only is it important to have a good lunch, it’s a great idea to use this time as an opportunity for a good break from work as well. Going on a short walk outside or doing light exercise is a simple way to improve your mood, but it can go a long way in keeping your mental health in check.

Tip #4: Have a designated work place to separate work and home life:

Working from home can blur the line between your home life and work life. It’s no secret that many people have been struggling to distinguish this balance, but it is important to try and find that all important relaxation time.

If possible, having a workspace away from your bedroom is ideal. This is very helpful in making sure associations between work life and personal life don’t start becoming intertwined. Not being able to focus on your work during the day and thinking about work in the evenings are traps we can easily fall into with remote working, but having a clear barrier between the two is key in looking after ourselves.

Tip #5: Don’t be afraid of being authentic:

Although this has been a very challenging time, some very important lessons have been learned during this period. One of these was put forward by our own Lucy Paine, who says, ‘being human is no longer seen as a weakness.’ The need hide our basic emotions for the sake of professionalism is weakening, and employees benefit hugely from this. In particular for leaders, it can be liberating for employees seeing that even their managers have their ups and downs too. Jo candidly spoke about occasions where she has cried in front of her team due to work stress but instead of them feeling awkward about it, the team were able to provide support rather than inadvertently making Jo feel ashamed. This helps to create a culture in which people don’t feel vulnerable in expressing their feelings and are comfortable in seeking support if they need it.

Our webinar was delivered shortly after Time to Talk Day which was took place 4th February earlier this year. This initiative was created by Time to Change, to encourage us to regularly check in with each other and provide support helping to foster a work culture which cultivates good mental health. If you would like to find out more about this initiative or  the other great work they do, you can do so by clicking here.

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