Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

'Wellbeing' has been a topic of increasing prominence for years, but the impact and effects of the pandemic have brought it to the forefront of individuals', managers' and leaders' agendas, highlighting the need for wellbeing initiatives to not only be in place, but embraced by all levels of the organisation.

Team office photo

With the increasing level of focus being placed on wellness, it’s easy for organisations to jump on bandwagons, implementing tertiary strategies which tick boxes of ‘taking care of people’. However they do little to really help their people to help themselves which should really be at the core of any meaningful activity.

As we enter Mental Health Awareness Week 2022, there has never been a better time for leaders to get behind the implementation of meaningful strategies that can be embraced by the new way of work which the pandemic has instigated. But how? Here are some of our ideas of great places to start:

1. First things first, leadership must be on board

Leadership buy-in is critical to ensure the success of any wellness programme or activity. Leadership’s perspective, more often than not, will make or break any initiative – senior executives and managers are essential to promoting positive workplace culture and wellbeing. If leaders don’t buy it, then how can managers and team members be expected to? 

Leaders should act as role models, spearheading activities and encouraging others to get involved. At Just R, our Founder Rachael is responsible for many of the wellness activities with our MD Ian also leading our Run Club. Not only does this ensure that the team is aware that time taken for wellness is viewed as important, it also provides individuals with agency to develop their own wellness related activities. This has resulted in employee-driven skillshares, nutrition consultations and involvement in community initiatives at Just R.

It is no surprise to us that according to Gallup, engaged employees are more likely to get involved. Leadership enthusiasm leads to greater employee engagement with wellness activity.

Getting employees engaged is the role of a leader / manager but the key is to build trust with your team. These managers must play a supportive and encouraging role to help employees feel comfortable about being involved in workplace wellbeing initiatives.

2. Mentoring opportunities

Workplace mentorships are a brilliant way you can encourage engagement and wellbeing. A mentor supports, advises, and guides a mentee on a goal-development journey. 

These mentorships come in a variety of formats which can be adapted to meet the objectives of your organisation, from traditional manager mentorships to peer based mentorships which encourage team building and performance. The amount of resource needed to run successful mentorship programmes is flexible, meaning no organisation is too small (or big!) to implement this. We advocate a coaching style of management at Just R, with peer mentorship programmes also in place.

3. Encourage employee interaction – let’s get talking!

Opportunities for effective team interaction and bonding have been challenged over the last few years and as we enter a new way of working, ranging from office based to home based and everything in between, it is essential not to lose sight of the benefits of close team member interaction.

This could be as simple as making a point to eat together. At Just R, we make it a habit to eat together at least once a week with dedicated spaces which encourage teams to take breaks together at other times. It is important for leaders to build in opportunities to bond inside and outside of work, with events and activities planned, promoted and backed by leadership.

4. Enable individuals to share their skills

There are few elements of work which are more satisfying than using a skill to benefit others, especially when given the opportunity to share and teach the skill with your close team. Providing team members with the opportunity to share skills is not only valuable to the beneficiary, but to the sharer as well.

We hold regular lunchtime skillshares enabling members of the team to either self identify the skills which they would like to share or have leadership and fellow team members request they share their expertise for the benefit of others.

A team which learns together, thrives together.

5. Encourage employee recognition

People and therefore employees crave recognition, and a recent study found that only 1 in 3 employees said they had been acknowledged for their work. 

Recognition at work motivates employees, giving them a sense of accomplishment and value.

Recognising employees’ efforts can be as simple as sending a handwritten note to say thank you, or the issuing of a certificate or award to publicly acknowledge individual accomplishments.

At Just R we have role model nominations which are offered by members of the team to one another to congratulate them on their demonstration of our values. Nominations are submitted via a simple online form and awards for local businesses and products are given once 10 nominations have been secured.

Role Model gifts

6. Celebrate together

It is important to celebrate wins, both small and large, as well as acknowledging special events such as birthdays or anniversaries. The relationships within high performing teams are best likened to those of a group of close friends and benefit from the fostering of trust which comes from these close connections. Celebrating together is an excellent way of promoting the development of these supportive bonds.

7. Raise awareness of and encourage positive conversation around mental health in the workplace

Statistics show that nearly 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. With numbers like that, it’s very likely that people within your company have mental health challenges. 

Sometimes these employees are afraid to speak up because of the perceived stigma of mental health issues. There is also a lack of education and understanding of the treatment options available. 

It is therefore important to reduce any stigmas relating to the subject of mental health, provide training and education around the facts, as well as offering counselling sessions for employees as part of a wellness and health benefits package. This will make a positive impact, ensuring individuals feel open to discuss and share challenges they may be experiencing.

8. Break down the work / life balance and focus on overall balance

At Just R we are of the opinion that it is far more preferable to feel alive whilst at work, not just in your personal life which is one of the many reasons we have concerns over the emphasis placed on work / life balance and the focus given to the two entities being separate.

We prefer to seek purpose and fulfilment from our time spent at work as well as at home which is why a strong emphasis is placed on our company vision and values at the point of recruitment.

We believe our goal of supporting NHS Workplaces to become places within which its people can thrive, is one which can foster a real sense of purpose within our teams. An understanding of personal purpose aligned to that of work, will result in a greater overall balance being achieved. This is what we should all be aiming for, negating the need for a fulfilling life to exist only outside of work.

9. Train to support workplace wellness

Welcoming new members to the team can be an exciting time but it’s crucial not to overlook offering some guidance to help them understand their role in supporting workplace wellness. Ensure they know what programs and services your organisation provides through the employee handbook, an assigned mentor and an effective onboarding process.

Let them know that these wellness programs are there for them to take advantage of when appropriate. As well as this, it is great to have champions of initiatives within the team. Training new managers on how they can support your workplace’s wellbeing should also be a vital component of the induction of new employees.

10. Take stock of your workplace environment

A healthy lifestyle is an active one, but most jobs require us to sit at a desk or stand for several hours a day. Although there may be no getting around the need to be at a screen or on the phone to complete tasks, there are ways to make your workplace more active.

Simple initiatives such as the encouragement of walking meetings are a great place to start. It’s proven that walking makes you more productive so it’s within an organisation’s best interest to encourage a quick walk to refresh the brain. This is something we actively encourage at Just R – if you don’t need to sit down at a table, then don’t!

A step further is to start group exercise activities. At Just R we started a running club in early March and by April, 10 of us had set a goal of completing a 10km event this September. This doesn’t mean we will all be sprinting over the finish line but we have set a goal, support one another to achieve it, and put in the work each week to ensure we can succeed. It’s inspiring to see the progress the team is making and hearing about how the team are now running in their free time.

As with all initiatives, leaders must get involved and back them. Taking a step to negotiate or subsidise a discounted membership at a local gym or health club provides a really positive signal to team members that leaders back engagement in exercise.

Building A Culture Of Wellbeing In The Workplace

Investing in workplace wellbeing is investing in your most valuable asset: people. Promoting workplace wellness and organising wellbeing initiatives must start at the top. If leaders buy into a program aimed at supporting employees’ mental and physical health it will signal that the organisation values sustainable workplace habits. This, in turn, will lead to a culture of happy and healthy employees.

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