MENTAL HEALTH AT WORK: WHY IT MATTERS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
October sure is a busy month for psychology-related events. We’ve blogged about Mental Health Week, World Mental Health Day, Ocsober, and we’re thinking of our students who are busily preparing for their exams.
Another topic we’d like to talk about this month is Wellbeing and Mental Health in the workplace. It’s Work Safe Month, and it’s very easy to focus only on physical safety within the workplace, but let’s also think about a psychologically safe workplace.
Why focus on Mental Health in the Workplace?
The statistics that we highlighted earlier this month on in our Mental Health Week post tell us that in a survey of over 16 million responses that 1 in 5 people experienced a mental illness in the past 12 months.
Are we realistic in thinking that these statistics don’t apply in our workplace? Take a look around you when you’re next at work – on average that’s one in five within your workplace who may be going through something.
Paying attention to mental health in the workplace makes sense for a variety of reasons, including:
- More harmonious interactions with colleagues
- A more connected team and improved sense of belonging
- A more positive work environment
- Increased motivation and productivity
- Less days off from work (absenteeism), or less days where you’re physically there but have mentally ‘checked out’ (presenteeism)
What can I do? I’m just one PERSON…
Yes, you may just be one person, but think about what impact one person can have on the workplace. One negative individual can have an impact on the morale of the team, so is it possible that one positive individual can also have an impact on the workplace? Below are some simple strategies that can make a difference.
Think about what you do
Think about how someone has made a difference to your day at work. Sometimes it really boils down to the small things, but these make a huge difference. You can do the same for someone else (kind of like paying it forward). It could be something as simple as:
- Showing someone that you’re thinking of them. Say hello in the morning, wish someone a good weekend, ask them how their weekend was.
- Be present and show genuine interest. Put your phone away when talking to someone and give them your full attention. Really listen to their response when you ask them how their weekend was.
- Do a ‘random act of kindness’. Perhaps you’re on your way to the kitchen to put your cup away. If so, and you’re passing a colleague with a dirty cup on their desk, you can offer to take in their cup at the same time. Maybe you’re heading out to get some lunch; if so you can ask someone if they want to tag along.
Think about how you think
Check your thoughts. It’s something that we talk about a lot at The Skill Collective because we recognise how our thoughts influence our feelings and, in turn, our behaviours. But, how does this play out in the workplace?
Let’s say that your manager makes a comment in the weekly team meeting:
Manager says: “Right everyone, we’re going to talk about how everyone’s progressing on the wind farm project”
You think: “Oh great, of course now that I have to talk about it, she’ll know just how terribly my part of the project is.”
Manager says: “Let’s whip around the table and everyone update me on their particular part of the project.”
You think: “Oh great, she’s going to single me and my poor performance out. I’ll be publicly humiliated. This is so degrading. This is what I hate about work.”
And so the thoughts start to snowball as do the negative feelings.
Let’s pause and check your thoughts to stop the snowballing or at least to minimise the size of our snowball:
- Is it possible that your manager, who may have several projects to stay on top of, wants to see where everyone is at so that she can gauge where the project is overall?
- Is it possible that she wants to get a sense of whether the existing deadlines are realistic given where the entire team is at, and change these deadlines to be more realistic ones?
- Has there been a weekly team meeting where a similar ‘whip around the table with updates’ process has occurred with no negative consequences (such as being singled out) occurred?
Think about what you say and how you say it
Let’s say that you require some information from a colleague in order to complete your part of a project. How differently would you respond to the following two responses?
Response 1: “You need to give me this information and I need it now.”
Response 2: “Hi Matt, are you able to give me the information by the end of the day or early tomorrow morning? I have to submit my part of the project tomorrow COB.”
Let’s also pay attention to the tone of voice – try saying Comment 2 in a neutral tone, versus using a sarcastic tone. How would you react if you were on the receiving end of both examples?
Don’t forget about yourself
We’ve focused on things that you can do to help your work environment and your colleagues. BUT, let’s not forget about what you can do to help yourself. Taking care of your own mental health and wellbeing will have a positive flow-on effect in the workplace – it helps you to react in a more rational way, you’re able to focus on having positive conversations, and you’re more aware of how you talk to others.
So let’s remember, as part of Work Safe Month, that we can all do something to take care of Wellbeing and Mental Health in the workplace.
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