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Mental well-being at work: what are we missing?

We all have moments when we need to call time-out and take a breather from work. It’s totally normal to experience stress from time to time. But if it all becomes too much and difficult to manage, it can cause problems. For a lot of us, it’s not as easy as getting the job done, switching off then getting on with our home lives. A stressful situation can have a big ripple effect. Last year, stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health cases in the UK, according to the Labor Force Survey. Some of the reasons for this include employees having too much on their plate, employees dealing with unreasonable deadlines, and employees lacking sufficient managerial support.

Thankfully, there are proven methods to elevate well-being — and leaders can guide their teams to healthier ways of working by not only making undue pressures and expectations a thing of the past, but by actively championing well-being at work. By implementing mindfulness practices, organizations can create the sort of environment that supports employees to take challenges in their stride and speak up if things feel out of control.

Work - What's missing?
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Turn up transparency

When employees feel comfortable and able to communicate their feelings, it can open the door to healthier, happier work environments. If you know what’s happening with your team on a personal level as well as a professional one, you can get valuable insights into what’s missing. On the face of things, employees may seem fine, but their real feelings may be bubbling under the surface. If they haven’t picked up explicit signals about what’s acceptable — whether that’s working hours or deadline expectations, for instance — they may feel it’s better to keep quiet. Listening and accepting feedback without judgment is the key to unlocking learnings about where to improve – learnings that will enable individuals to thrive, as well as the business.

A mindful leader isn’t just a great listener, however. A mindful leader speaks out about their own well-being and feelings, even if at first it makes them feel vulnerable. A mindful leader is honest and open about when they need a mental health day — and isn’t afraid to speak up about the challenges they’re facing. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but by being present and embracing new conversations in this way, leaders help others to do the same — which in turn, helps to reduce the stigma around talking about our mental health. As transparency between leaders and team members becomes more commonplace, it will result in workplaces where all employees feel more confident to open up, listen and learn from each other.

Lead by example

Company values say a lot about a brand and how they do things. They are the attitudes and behaviors that shape company culture. That’s why it’s a good idea to take a step back and re-evaluate: do your company’s values speak to the well-being of the workforce? Evolving with the perspective of mindfulness can help businesses see any holes in their culture. For example, building the value of compassion into the brand can show individuals that you care and will be there to support them. What’s more, values such as curiosity will communicate that the company is open to new ideas without judgment. As leaders live and breathe these values, and colleagues see their genuine efforts to build them into the culture, it paves the way for a workplace with well-being at its heart. Over time, this translates into a more attractive employee proposition – but more significantly, a more caring environment.

A wider view of well-being

There are so many influencing factors for well-being that it can be hard to see the areas in which workplaces might need more love and attention. As a leader, you can’t create a bubble for well-being to thrive in. But you can consider a wider scope of factors for your initiatives and programs.

There are six categories that affect employees’ lives: physical, emotional/mental, community, financial, career/purpose and social. Examining current well-being initiatives against these categories can help employers see where they can do more. The organization might decide to offer physical initiatives, such as gym membership discounts, sponsored activities and virtual fitness classes. To boost employee connections to the community, employers might give teams the opportunity to undertake paid volunteering for causes they hold close to their hearts. Mindfulness programs can provide support with strategies like meditation to help employees manage their emotions and prevent stress and burnout before they become a problem. But to help you understand where emotional well-being support might need development, it’s a good idea to ask yourself:

  • How does mental health support fit into our well-being strategies?
  • Who has access? Are there segments of the employee ecosystem left without appropriate support?
  • Is support easy to find and navigate?
  • How effective is the support we provide employees? Are there ways to track and measure over time?
  • Are employees familiar with the types of support that exist and which are right for them?
  • How does our work culture encourage (or discourage) taking advantage of mental health support?

A sense of purpose is deeply entwined in well-being, so the more ways employers can provide this, the better their chances are of improving employee happiness. Leaders should think about what makes each individual tick and how they can address their unique needs. By embedding well-being into every part of the business’s operations, they can begin to change habits and even mindsets. The shift to healthier workplaces may not happen overnight, but with every step towards well-being in the workplace comes the potential for huge leaps in improvement to team members’ lives. As you bridge gaps in your current strategies, you build a happier, more resilient business.

To learn more, read our ‘Mindfulness and Work Culture of Tomorrow’ e-Book.

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