It is estimated that every week around 6.5 million adults in the UK will experience a mental health problem like anxiety, stress or depression. In fact, mental health issues are possibly more common than many of us imagine. With 1 in 6 workers in the UK experiencing mental health issues, it is more than possible that the person sitting right next to you in your office could be experiencing issues that you are not even aware of.
Mental health issues are in fact now recognised as one of the leading causes of sickness absence. It is estimated that over 15 million working days are lost in the UK due to mental health problems, and that 25% of workplace absences are due to mental ill health issues, which cost employers an average of £1,035 per employee per year.
Unsurprisingly, mental health issues are very often reflected in a person’s ability to perform their job effectively. They can adversely affect their ability to work with others, their judgement, and ultimately their productivity. That person may be unable to fully concentrate on their job which could lead to costly mistakes and worst case scenario, an accident in the workplace.
The link between positive mental health and a company’s success can never be underestimated – it is enormous. And it’s not only mental health conditions that impact upon business, but also workplace stress. Together, these conditions are the biggest occupational health problem in the UK, making them the main cause of employee absence and costing businesses approximately £26 billion per year.
In the past, very few people talked openly about mental health problems at work. However, in recent times there has been a shift towards a growing willingness to be open and honest about a subject that for so long had been stigmatised. This change has undoubtedly been driven by recent campaigns such as Time to Change (MIND in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness), and support from high profile advocates such as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, all of which have helped to make mental health issues a primary concern for employers and employees alike. In fact recently published results from the Employee Wellbeing Research 2018 revealed that mental health is now very much a priority for companies with over 60% of respondents reporting that they are most concerned about this area of employee wellbeing.
Many employers are now providing their employees with access to professional Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses. These teach people to spot the symptoms of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide a person towards support. In particular, many companies are offering line managers training in how to recognise stress within the workplace, and access to support services such as counselling for those who are having issues with workplace stress or/and other mental health problems.
Whilst the taboo of mental health is slowly fading away, low levels of disclosure continues to be a barrier to support in the workplace – 48% of respondents in a survey carried out by The Clear Company stated that they would not talk to their employer about their mental health. So with this in mind, it is crucial that employers consider ways in which a culture of openness can be fostered, that actively encourages staff to share their needs on an ongoing basis so that they can be fully supported.
Here at ExtraMile, we work hard to support every member of our team and share our strategies for wellbeing to help proactively minimise the impact of mental ill health on work and life. We actively acknowledge the importance of wellbeing and the huge impact it has on our business and encourage positive mental health throughout the company. Here are just a few top tips from members of the ExtraMile team as to how they help themselves to stay mentally healthy and reduce stress:
Gabrielle Hadley (Managing Director)
- I work with a personal trainer two to three times a week first thing in the morning, so that by the time the work day starts, I’m feeling energised and very focused.
- I’m a firm believer in a brisk 30-minute walk at lunchtime. Having that extra exercise on the middle of the working day really helps those endorphins for the much harder afternoon slot.
- If I’m feeling really stressed and need to think issues through on my own, a hot bath is the answer for me. I also love to cook most nights as this takes my focus away from work and onto a trivial job. Being quiet helps me to relax – a quiet evening reading a magazine, again, something non-work related focuses my mind on trivia and de-stresses me.
- At the weekend there’s something about a walk along the beach or in wooded areas which is incredibly relaxing and having the ability to appreciate the colours, the smells and sounds of the birds.
Hollie Rowe (Search Engine Marketing Specialist)
- I think the things that work for me best to decrease my stress levels are cooking and driving (not at the same time!) whilst listening to my favourite music.
- I love to be outdoors with friends/loved ones – especially when the sun is shining.
- Writing down what’s stressing me out and coming up with a bit of an action plan (if I can) I find massively helpful.
- I find listing all the things that I DO have going for me that I’m appreciative of also helps me to focus my mind and feel positive.
Shannon Wright (Creative Manager)
- I regularly practice meditation and breathing exercises for stress relief. Breathing exercises are one of the most overlooked yet most effective stress management tools to improve cognitive function and reduce anxiety.
- I also recommend Headspace for stress relief.
Nikki Proctor (Public Relations Manager)
- I find a walk in the countryside with my dogs or a few hours out riding my horses really helps to clear my brain and de-stress. The peace and quiet helps me to focus and to appreciate everything around me.
- At the end of every day I think of at least one thing that has gone really well, been very positive, been a great experience etc. (I try not to dwell on the negatives). And I focus on that experience and the positive feelings that it brought – I even write really positive happenings down in what I call my ‘little book of blessings’ and I can then look back and focus on all the good things that have happened in my life when things aren’t going so great.
- I also enjoy Aromatherapy and the lighting of candles – these both have real benefits for stress relief and help me to feel more energised and more relaxed.
YOU can help support those with mental health problems ….
Since 1992 every April has been ‘Stress Awareness Month’ during which time relevant organisations, charities and professionals work hard to raise public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
This April Gabrielle Hadley, the managing director of ExtraMile has launched her own campaign to highlight mental health issues. Gabrielle has set up a JustGiving page to raise funds to support MIND the mental health charity by forgoing her birthday presents. No one should have to face a mental health problem alone and you just never know if one day mental health problems may affect you, your family or loved ones. Please help by supporting Gabrielle Hadley’s JustGiving page by making your donation here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gabrielle-hadley
** Cover photo courtesy of Nick Evans, taken at Sculpture by the Lakes. This piece entitled ’Search for Enlightenment’, by Simon Gudgeon