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How to promote good mental wellbeing in the workplace

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Monday 10 October is World Mental Health Awareness Day.

Each year the World Federation for Mental Health sets the theme for World Mental Health Day and this year it is ‘making mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’.

Mental health is a state of wellbeing which mean that people can better cope with life’s pressures and challenges. There have been some positive shifts in the way we talk about mental health. People within the public eye, from celebrities to the Royal Family, are more open about discussing the mental health and last week Steven Bartlett’s podcast Diary of a CEO reached 10 million downloads in a month. Mental health is a theme that runs through many of these podcasts, yet despite these examples helping to break down some of the stigma surrounding mental health, there is still a long way to go. Certain groups, for example, young people, people in certain jobs, and those impacted by social and economic inequalities are more likely to suffer stress and have less access to resources to help them cope.

Employers can help reduce some of the factors more likely to increase stress in the workplace. The nature of work itself can impact on stress, for example, workload volume, the pace and the amount of control an employee has over their work.

Beyond this, workplace culture and how inclusive the organisation is can impact on wellbeing. In our white paper, The Equity Effect, we reported on discrimination and micro-aggressions that ethnic minority employees and business leaders face. Other research has shown that LGBTQ employees are more likely to suffer stress through workplace discrimination. In such workplace environments, people don’t have a sense of psychological safety. Working to create inclusive and equitable workplaces can be one step in supporting employees.

One other impact on stress at work is often home-work conflict which for many was exacerbated during the pandemic. Our research into the four-day week showed benefits such as increased productivity but critically for employees, improved satisfaction and a reduction in sickness absence. While this may not be suitable for all organisations, job flexibility can certainly help people manage some of the stress caused through balancing work-home conflicts.

Finally, for individuals struggling with their mental health, talking to someone whether that’s a friend, colleague, through an Employee Assistance Programme or external provider such as Mind, can be one of the best first steps to improving your mental health and accessing the support that you need.

Dr Melissa Carr

Lecturer in International Human Resource Management

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