How to bring up the conversation of mental health at work

Mental Health Illustration. Pic: Getty Images

We’re not going to sugar-coat it for you but life has been tough lately for many of us. Chances are that you’ve worked from home for a year and counting, been unable to see your loved ones, and had to bear witness to the not-so-sunny news cycle. That combined with the average stresses of your day-to-day life can be a lot to handle, even at the best of times.

Once in a while, you just need time to unplug. A day where you don’t have to think about office dynamics, tight deadlines or the classic cheesy icebreaker you’ll need to bust out on your next Zoom meeting. Whilst vacations and weekends are a helpful and important reset opportunity, the need for a mental health day at work is ever more prevalent.

The question is when and how will the importance of mental health support actually reach the workplace?

Here are just a few simple ways that we as a nation can open up the conversation surrounding mental health at work and improve the wellbeing of the entire workforce. 

How to begin bringing up your emotional wellbeing at work

While it can seem quite daunting discussing mental health at work, the topic is extremely important and must be dealt with sensitively. As an employee, you may ten to show only one dimension of yourself to one another, and despite how well you think you know your work bestie, you probably are not aware of the struggles they’re experiencing in their personal lives. After all, do you find yourself sharing your most personal issues with your co-workers? Probably not.

The safest way to begin the discussion is by giving examples to your colleagues of how the work team can support mental wellbeing and try and sense their reaction to this. For instance, “at my friends’ workplace the company allows all their employees access to counselling as part of their benefits packages, what do you think of this idea?”. It could be worth trying this tactic with a few of your closest co-workers and see what they think. If their response is positive, it is definitely worth discussing the topic more freely with them and drawing on their opinions.

How you can support the mental health of your team

Finding actual effective ways to improve the mental wellbeing of your co-workers has always been a struggle, not to mention now more than ever a large proportion of us are no longer working from office, but from home so your general wellbeing may have taken a punch.

Recommending ways to support your colleagues virtually, if not in person with their mental health is essential to the overall health of the company. It could be worth offering up some suggestions to bring forward with your HR department. Also, consider suggesting advising a team membership to a mental health app such as Headspace or Calm as they offer instant support to anyone suffering with stress, depression or anxiety. Especially with the pandemic, isolation can have a drastic impact on a person’s mental health, so these apps are particularly effective if you need a way of coping with working from home.

How to inspire your colleagues to cooperate

Unless you find yourself working in the HR department, it can be difficult to encourage people’s attention towards the importance of mental health during a busy working day. The best way to highlight this is to find a time efficient way of gathering everyone’s thoughts and feelings on the current state of mental health support the company provides and ask for suggestions on how it can be improved. You can do this through creating a simple short survey that can be sent on to HR, which they can then circulate it around to all employees. 

Honestly, you’ll be amazed at how much the general happiness of the team improves once they realise their voice is being heard and knowing changes will be made.

How to get your boss to take note of mental health awareness

Many of us are very fortunate to work for empathetic, forward-thinking employers who stay up to date on mental health awareness and the general wellbeing of their employees. But not everyone is so lucky. If you feel that the approach to supporting mental health at your company is archaic, or even worse non-existent, don’t wait for your boss to notice. Even though it is not your job to fix fundamental issues like this in your company, you should at least voice your concerns with the HR department. 

If you do speak up and find that no changes have been made, you’ll have no regrets if you decide to look for a new job elsewhere. Companies that remain ignorant of the mental health crisis we’re facing within overworked employees are not built to survive. To put it simply, it’s unsustainable. If at any time you believe your efforts are being ignored and would be valued elsewhere, never hesitate to move on.

Remember, health should always come first, and your wages second.

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