Five to Thrive: encouraging mental wellbeing in the workplace

The issue of mental ill-health in the workplace is undeniably a national problem, with stress recently overtaking musculoskeletal problems as the most common cause of workplace sickness absence. With work-related mental health problems costing the UK economy £26 billion annually, the problem facing City businesses may seem overwhelming.

Finding useful information can be difficult, especially with innumerable advice blogs offering ‘quick-fix’ remedies to what is clearly a complex issue. However, whilst improving mental health in the workplace is a ‘whole-company’ issue requiring a multi-pronged approach, there are simple steps businesses can promote which are proven to enhance mental health and resilience against stress.

These steps are being championed by City and Hackney Clinical Commissioning Group and Hackney Council through their ‘5 to Thrive’ campaign: a week of events leading up to World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10th October) which promote the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’:

  1. Connect – Our wellbeing is improved by investing in relationships, interacting with those around us and developing connections with others. The working environment may provide opportunities for this. Businesses, however, could also encourage interaction through team-building exercises and collaborative working. Basic structures such as regular supervisions with employees ensure that managers and their staff can communicate well.
  1. Be Active – We’re constantly being urged to get more active, eat healthily and stay fit. However, whilst it might sound obvious, there really are emotional and mental benefits to building exercise into our routines. It doesn’t have to be sporty or competitive, just something that you enjoy doing; whether gardening, walking, dancing or cycling. Why not consider starting a fitness group in your organisation?
  1. Take Notice – Focusing on the present moment, being aware of physical sensations as you walk, eat and breathe – it all sounds too simple to be effective. Yet these are the basic principles underpinning Mindfulness, the popular breathing practice championed by influential names like Angelina Jolie and Google. The practice has been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. City and Hackney Mind offers free mindfulness classes (and other wellbeing programmes) for residents of the City and Hackney.
  1. Keep Learning – Learning new skills has been shown to improve one’s mental wellbeing. For your team this could be as simple as trying a new activity, setting personal goal or enrolling on an evening course. One way to facilitate learning in the workplace is through encouraging staff to take on new or different responsibilities. This is good not only for Learning & Development targets, but also for staff wellbeing!
  1. Give – It turns out that giving (whether money, time or expertise) is good not only for others but for ourselves. Giving actually has a noticeable effect on our mental wellbeing, through fostering strong relationships, reducing isolation and encouraging emotional investment in the world around us. Why not organise a team-building half day supporting a local charity, offering your skills pro-bono, or organising a fundraiser bake sale one lunchtime?

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