The topic of mental health has been centre stage since the pandemic, remaining in the spotlight through the cost-of-living crisis. With the everyday pressures of work added to the mix, conditions seem just about ripe for a meltdown, so how do we recognise and build resilience to negative thoughts and situations before they spiral out of control?
World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10 October 2023 reminds us to take stock of our anxiety levels and to seek help, whether through counselling offered as part of employee benefits or through external measures.
While physical illness is usually obvious to ourselves and others, mental health issues can be harder to spot – fatigue, frustration or a sense of living on autopilot can all be signs of anxiety or depression, or a symptom of other underlying conditions. Short-term physical illness may keep us from our desks for a few days, but mental health challenges can manifest in chronic disorders if left untreated.
The first step to mental wellbeing at work is communication – encouraging your employees to express any problems or anxieties that impact their work, reassuring them that positive action will be taken to help them get back on track.
Reporting procedures should be clear, whether it’s directly to a line manager, if they feel comfortable doing so, or to the HR department. Mental health first aiders are in place in many organisations too, acting as a go-to contact for anyone in distress in the workplace. They can signpost to internal and external resources and act as a confidant to individuals in need, under guidance and support of the employer’s health and wellbeing policies.
Here’s a look at some common mental health issues and stressful situations, and how to address them in the workplace.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their own abilities, feel like frauds, and believe their achievements are due to luck rather than skill or hard work.
Challenging negative thinking is essential in order to gain perspective, understanding that imposter syndrome is common and doesn’t reflect actual abilities. Giving positive, constructive feedback, and offering mentorship and training can help empower team members who may be unwilling to share their feelings of self-doubt with their manager or colleagues.
Lead by example: As a leader, share your own challenges and experiences of imposter syndrome to help ease the worries of employees.
Set realistic expectations: Encourage realistic goal setting and expectations – break big tasks into smaller, achievable steps. Help employees understand that mistakes are part of the learning process, and never dwell on errors or place blame.
Offer support: Assign mentors or coaches to help guide employees. Upskilling can be a powerful tool in building confidence.
Work burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion resulting from prolonged exposure to high levels of stress and overwork. It can manifest as reduced motivation, increased cynicism, and decreased performance – and if not addressed, can lead to illness or an individual deciding to leave their job.
Most jobs are pressured, and some people thrive on deadlines and targets, but if you or your employees start feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks or unable to cope with your workload, it’s time to ask for support. There’s no shame in seeking help and team members should feel their employer will lend a sympathetic ear and actively support them through the crisis.
Set boundaries: Establish clear work-life boundaries for you and your team and stick to them. Avoid unwittingly creating a culture of overwork, which can lead to people feeling guilty if they don’t do the same.
Monitor workloads: Avoid overburdening any team member and delegate appropriately based on individual strengths and capabilities. Set realistic expectations and deadlines.
Be flexible: Allow for remote work or flexi hours where possible. Encourage your team to use all their annual leave to disconnect from work entirely.
Work performance anxiety is a condition where individuals experience excessive worry, fear, or nervousness about their job performance. This anxiety can interfere with the ability to effectively perform tasks and impact career prospects as well as wellbeing.
Everyone has a bugbear at work, be it hitting deadlines on time, writing emails or giving presentations. In team one-to-ones, encourage individuals to identify aspects of their role that cause anxiety, and see if additional training or mentoring would interest them.
Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals for team members and break them into smaller, manageable tasks to ease the pressure. On their website, ACAS suggest various reasonable mental health adjustments that might be made.
Time management: Organise work tasks and help staff prioritise them by using relevant digital platforms or creating alternative schedules.
Positive self-talk: Encourage your team to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, challenging irrational beliefs. Visualisation exercises – imagining a successful performance or remembering one – can be hugely helpful.
Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination or mistreatment in a professional setting that can take various forms, such as verbal, physical, or psychological abuse. It often involves actions or comments that create a hostile or intimidating environment based on factors like race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics.
Calling out harassment and bullying where you see it is essential and requires employees at all levels to do the same. A ‘zero-tolerance policy’ should be backed up with robust action to protect workers, not to mention the reputation of your organisation.
Intervene: Approach the situation discreetly and calmly, ensuring the wellbeing of those involved. Be watchful for other incidents.
Document: Collect information, keep a record of incidents, including dates, times, locations, and witnesses. Follow your company’s reporting procedures. Listen to the victim’s concerns and assure them that their complaint will be taken seriously.
Report: Tell HR. Work with them throughout the investigation, which may result in disciplinary action against the perpetrator.
Menopause can impact mental health at work in various ways, including mood swings, increased stress, and cognitive changes. Understanding the signs and symptoms can be hugely beneficial in identifying the support you, or your team members, might need to help you through this natural life stage.
Communication is key to tailoring the support individuals need to continue to do their job effectively. Download our free eBook ‘Menopause: how to support your employees’ for ideas on workplace support.
Manage stress: The mental impact of menopause is only now being explored in greater depth. Symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, so-called ‘brain-fog’, insomnia and mood swings are common in the years leading up to, during, and after menopause. Stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, and taking regular breaks can help – check in regularly with team members to ensure they are coping. An informal chat can be very effective.
Support groups: Some workplaces run informal menopause support groups that give people the chance to share their experiences and learn from others. Consider starting one (online or offline) to break the ice in your organisation and see that your team know what support is available.
Flexible working: If possible, promote flexible arrangements or remote/hybrid working options to help affected members of the team manage their symptoms.
Remember to seek help if you feel unable to cope. Anyone can be impacted by mental health issues, whether they are a CEO or joining the workforce for the first time.
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