By Richard Latham, CEO, Wellmind Health
About Wellmind Health
Wellmind Health have been pioneers in the space of health apps for over a decade since the launch of their Meditainment library of guided meditations. The company’s Be Mindful and Pathway though Pain flexible online programmes significantly reduce depression, stress and anxiety and dramatically improve the self-management of chronic pain. Clinically proven and NHS-approved, the medication-free digital therapeutics guide participants to improved, long-term outcomes.
World Mental Health Day provides an opportunity to remember the value of supporting staff mental health and wellbeing, for individuals and for organisations
The arrival of this year’s World Mental Health Day is a valuable reminder of the importance of supporting staff mental health and wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety, and while society continues to open up, there are still challenges and uncertainties. The cumulative nature of stress and the sustained nature of the pandemic has also resulted in our not being able to benefit from recovery times between episodic periods of stress.
However, it has also highlighted and increased the focus on the needs of staff and the benefits that implementing effective workplace wellbeing policies and programmes provide to them, and to the companies they work for.
Creating positive work environments with good health and wellbeing can be a core enabler of employee engagement and organisational performance. Healthy workplaces help people to flourish, both at work and at home, and to reach their true potential. They also allow organisations to thrive, which in turn reinforces the positive environment in which employees are operating and enhances increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity.
Staff and managers had to adjust to the sudden shift to remote working last year. With a return to the office, hybrid working now appears to be becoming the most prevalent model, which also presents its own challenges. The use of digital communication channels, mental health and wellbeing apps, and digital therapeutics has grown dramatically since the first lockdown, providing valuable support to staff at home and to managers trying to support their teams remotely, and they can continue to do so with office, hybrid, and remote-working models.
Adjusting to the next phase of work
Whether staff are working in the office, at home, or a mixture of both, it’s important to tailor support for varying needs and levels of need. Continually nurturing open lines of communication helps to create a safe environment, promote a positive culture, and allow people to feel comfortable to reach out if they are struggling. Staff who continue to work remotely for personal reasons will continue not to benefit from the type of face-to-face engagement that can make it easier to approach managers if they are having issues, and makes it harder for managers to detect any signals of mental ill health.
Colleagues’ return to the office may also add to any feelings of isolation and heighten concerns that their work is less visible. Ensuring that those attending meetings remotely, whether in the office sometimes or not, are able to contribute with ease and feel equal participants will help foster inclusion. Hybrid working also creates a risk that team cohesion and employee wellbeing are negatively impacted through fragmentation between teams and team members.
With people working in the office only on certain days there can be a lack of crossover with a potential for collaboration and creativity to be negatively impacted, inner circles and a siloed workforce developing, and mental wellbeing suffering. The effective practices that were adopted during remote working can be maintained to help prevent and mitigate such issues. Strong digital communication and workflow channels create visibility between team members, encouraging inclusivity and productivity, and helping to aid mental wellbeing.
Methods of supporting staff mental health and wellbeing
Managers and senior leaders can directly contribute to creating a positive environment with an open culture where people can freely express any issues they are experiencing by clearly signposting help. Storytelling around personal experiences and engaging with wellbeing initiatives by leaders can also help to counteract the stigma that remains around mental health and help to boost engagement.
Encouraging staff to partake in physical activities and spend time amongst nature and green spaces during break times or outside working hours can provide big improvements. A mere ten minutes of brisk walking has been shown to be able to improve mental alertness, energy and to boost mood.
The benefits of meditation are wide ranging, including reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue, better emotional wellbeing, increased attention span and improved sleep. Offering regular meditation times for staff, either on premises or online, helps to bring staff together and allow people to make the time to focus on their own wellbeing. Meditation apps are also a useful tool for employees to provide that staff can engage with whenever needed and are particularly helpful for beginners.
For team members who are experiencing depression and more chronic levels of stress or anxiety, digital therapeutics can provide an effective intervention and bring many other benefits. They can be accessed discreetly and easily in an employee’s own time, being available 24/7, don’t require face-to-face or scheduled online sessions with a therapist or counsellor, and are medication-free. Some of these apps are clinically proven and supported by the NHS and can teach life-long skills to deliver long-term reductions in levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Promoting good mental health and wellbeing and providing effective tools not only supports staff wellbeing and helps prevent and alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety. It also helps foster open and inclusive cultures and create positive work environments with healthy employee relations where individuals and organisations can thrive.