It’s estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience an episode of poor mental health during their lifetime. Working in certain sectors impose a higher risk such as healthcare, hospitality and social work. It is now the number 1 leading cause of absence in the workplace on the whole – costing employers in the UK nearly £35 billion in 2019.
Those employers that ignore the issue, or who undermine the mental health of their staff, risk not only the health of the people who work for them but the wealth of their business and the health of the economy as a whole. – Centre for Mental Health.
Fortunately, companies are becoming more proactive in tackling the problem. America & New Zealand have appointed ‘Mental health days’, where an employee can take a paid day off for reasons other than physical illness. In the UK, here are some practices that companies are putting in place to improve the well-being of their staff.
Music Therapy Services
Music therapy is a very effective tool in promoting mental balance. It’s believed to work by strengthening brain synapses by using rhythms and melodies, which as a result lowers stress and anxiety levels. The NHS recruits those from creative backgrounds to teach arts, crafts or an instrument to not only patients, but also staff. Depending on which hospital in the country – doctors, nurses and consultants are also eligible for music therapy programmes.
Mindfulness Meditation Programmes & Workplace Exercise
Spending just 20 minutes a day to meditate can have a positive effect on mental well-being. Tech-Giant Google have a reputation for being focused on workplace happiness. They offer several mediation courses to their employees, including ‘Self-knowledge and mastery’ and ‘building mindful mental habits’. Sony, Nike and Facebook are a just a few of the global brands that also use meditation to promote this philosophy.
It’s also proven that regular exercise can combat low mood. The recommended amount of steps per day is 10,000, which can be hard for those in sedentary jobs, such as office work, to achieve. Some companies have introduced in-office exercise schemes to help employees feel more focused, positive and energised.
More employers are investing in training schemes to develop and gain a broader understanding of mental health and methods to manage it more effectively. These programmes come in the form of Online Learning (E-Learning), or having an organisation come to the company. They cover: how to recognize a mental health problem, effective steps to deal with it, and possible contributions. These could include increased workload employees may take on due to short staffing in the company, working through breaks, and/or not feeling valued as an employee.
Flexible Work Hours
A healthy work life balance is fundamental to mental stability. The 40-hour week was a social movement introduced during the Industrial Revolution to stop exploitation in factories. However, things have progressed since this era and many believe the concept is now outdated.
Sweden have been trialing a 6-hour working day and have so far found impressive results in terms of staff contentness and motivation. Many Scandinavian countries are adopting the same method and seeing similar results. In Japan, Microsoft announced that they have trialed a 4-day working week on full pay and found elevated levels of productivity and increased sales.
Unfortunately, these measures won’t necessarily prevent mental health conditions from manifesting. Although a leading topic in the UK, there are still workplaces that are lacking knowledge on how to manage it. This can make it very difficult for an individual suffering to address the issue to their employer. Companies should look to start a discussion; The ability to communicate mental health issues with colleagues, not just management, and ensuring employees have someone to talk to is essential.
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