Small Things that Employers Can do to Improve their Employees’ Mental Health

Corporate wellbeing initiative in a workplace

Work can be a large contributor to stress and mental health problems. Most of us will spend most of our lives week to week at work, so employers should be doing everything they can to help. Even adopting small changes can make a difference to your employees’ mental health. Corporate wellbeing programs can bring together tools for employees to better handle the stress they deal with in their workplace.

A workplace is much more than just a job. It’s how you make a living; a place to socialise; it’s somewhere you need to feel valued. If you have a team that is not engaged or not comfortable, you need to make changes, otherwise, you will battle with high staff turnover.

Did you know only 52% of employees feel satisfied in their workplace and close to 21% of employees have been unable to work due to mental health problems? Change doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be a priority for employees.

Small Changes do Matter

For an issue as prevalent and complex as mental health, employers may think that the solution needs to be big too, but that’s not always true. Small changes can help your workforce in a big way, and in turn, affect your business. Having good mental health can:

  • Allow employees to reach their full potential
  • Increase employees’ ability to manage stressful situations
  • Help employees create better relationships, both in and out of work
  • By taking the time to implement small changes, your employees’ mental health and workplace culture will improve tremendously. You can take that step further by implementing a corporate wellbeing initiative to further motivate your employees.

    Promote Physical Activity

    Often, people view physical exercise as a way of getting fit and nothing more. Although there are a whole host of benefits, in relation to what affects employee mental health, The World Health Organisation states that physical activity will:

  • Reduce feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Improve thinking, judgement and learning abilities
  • Incorporating movement into the workday doesn’t need to be complicated or high-intensity. A simple stretching session or short walk provides space for a much-needed break from work.

    Encourage Eating a Balanced Diet

    How we consume food and what we choose to eat has long-lasting impacts on our mental and physical health. Routinely making healthy choices can be difficult for people during a busy workday, however, we can create the right environment for employees to remove any barriers preventing them from eating healthfully. Offering a selection of fresh fruit and nuts, as well as hydration stations, can contribute to them achieving the 2 and 5 fruit and veg per day.
    Be mindful that some people experience or have experienced eating disorders, which makes it extremely difficult for them to eat in public. Offering things such as regular work lunches can bring people together in a social way and help to alleviate the stress these people may be facing.

    Emphasise Importance of Human Connection

    For a while we’ve been transitioning toward a virtual existence, however, with the widespread of COVID-19 across the globe, this has increased tremendously. Working solely from home has increased feelings of isolation and resulted in higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress. This is largely attributed to the fact that people are talking online from their work from home setups, instead of in person. In doing so we lose the emotion and feeling associated with what we’re trying to communicate.

    While technically phone and video calls are “online contact” there is much more of a personal element to it. Sending someone a quick message or email can be easily misinterpreted and loses that feeling of human connection that most people crave.

    Recognise Employees’ Strengths

    Employee mental health is a much deeper issue than how people eat, sleep, exercise or socialise. Challenges like imposter syndrome can place an immense amount of pressure on employees and their abilities. It’s important to create a culture that enables people to be vulnerable and feels comfortable to ask for help or say they don’t know something without seeing it as a weakness. Having low self-confidence is directly connected to mental health issues like depression. Recognising your employee’s strengths and building them into their work, helps them to achieve growth and positively impact their mental state.

    In some cases, it’s not possible to incorporate personal strengths and abilities into a work environment. You could then explore team-building exercises which revolve around individual strengths or facilitate sessions that allow individuals to share their passions with their team.

    Be an Advocate for Breaks

    We often use the expression “hard work pays off” and when we have a mountain of work to get through, it can feel like there is no time for breaks. While hard work does in fact pay off, it’s also important to balance this with real, relaxing breaks. Studies have shown that taking time out improves productivity and wellbeing. Real breaks don’t involve sitting at your desk scrolling through Instagram or having a coffee in front of your computer screen. The importance of a real break is getting away from the working environment.
    Regular (real) breaks help to:

  • Lower stress levels
  • Boost productivity
  • Increase energy
  • Social breaks are a great way to encourage team members to step away from their desks and increase social interaction within the workplace. Never underestimate the power of a mini-break for your team to leave the office for group fitness or perhaps a meditation class. It will benefit their minds, bodies and create a point of discussion for them.

    Encourage employees to relax while they’re on holiday, prohibiting them from doing any work, in doing so, they will return to work more rejuvenated and refreshed. With working from home becoming the new norm, it’s all too easy to check in on workloads and task lists that it can feel like we lose that mental break from work-life. Make sure your team has holidays booked throughout the year so that they have something to spur them on.

    Shine the Light on Mental Health

    As a leader, set an example by talking about your feelings and create a safe space for your team to do so also. While talking about your personal issues to a family member or close friend can help, it doesn’t change the levels of overwhelm you may feel at work.

    If you are supervising a team, make time to check in with your team regularly, making sure there is no judgement and that the conversation is kept confidential. People need to feel heard and safe to say what is troubling them. Remember that each individual has a different capacity to deal with stress and workloads, and if an employee discloses a difficult situation they’re experiencing, you will need to change these things in order to keep your workforce happy and motivated. When your workplace fosters a culture of mental flourishing, you will have a more productive, motivated and satisfied team.

    Now What?

    There is no one-way approach to addressing mental health and the points we have highlighted only scratch the surface of corporate wellbeing. In saying that, these things provide a holistic outlook to wellbeing and give you the tools to introduce small changes that can help create more balance. As to when and how you implement them is entirely up to you. Speak with your team about what you are doing and why it is important. Make sure they feel included and give them the opportunity to provide suggestions of their own.

    Myall Wellbeing can assist you in your endeavours to improve your workplace wellbeing and employee mental health. For more information, contact us at .