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It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and many people tend to be more concerned with going to the gym than looking after their mental wellbeing, but mental health is just as important as physical health. It’s easy to get caught up in work and just assume that you’re stressed or fed up, but no matter how busy you are you need to find time to look after yourself, and your job can help you do this. If you’re not sure how, read on for our tips on how to improve mental health at work.

For Employers

Open communication

If your employees feel like they can’t ever raise a personal problem with you or tell you that they’re struggling and need more support, there’s a greater risk of them developing poor mental health and feeling like no one can help. Managers should undergo sensitivity training or understand the need to allow employees to express themselves, especially if they’re experiencing any problems in work.
If people feel like they can actually talk to you and their managers they will do, and you should offer them support to let them know you value them and they aren’t just a cog in the machine.

The benefits of flexibility

Lots of people preach about achieving work-life balance, but find it hard to actually do. This can be because of rigid working hours that mean it’s difficult to find time to commit to plans outside of work, or accommodate a need to work remotely on occasional days. This can cause employees to feel extra stress about trying to manage their life and over time, lead to resentment for the company and their boss, and unhappiness about how the job seems to come before anything else.
A top way to improve mental health at work is to offer employees flexibility where you can. Implement flexible work from home days or early finishes on a Friday just to let them know that you appreciate how hard they work and understand that no one wants to be in the office come 5.30 on a Friday. These flexible work arrangements are also beneficial when it comes to attracting new staff who will be tempted by the modern approach to working.

Better work spaces

The idea of working 9-5 in your own isolated cubicle is starting to change over time, but for the companies that haven’t caught up, working in a poor environment can reduce happiness and make people dread coming into work. Try and give people access to a social space where they can work, have lunch or catch up with their colleagues, and make your office as light and welcoming as possible.
Even adding some colourful art to the walls, a few houseplants in the office or natural lighting can make people feel better about spending time at their desk, and make sure that employees know that they shouldn’t work on their breaks, and should use it for temporarily switching off and stretching their legs.

For Employees

Use your commute wisely

One of the top ways how to improve mental health at work doesn’t even take place at work, it happens after you’ve left. Whether you drive or use public transport to get home, you should try to use your commute as time to unwind from any stress you’ve had that day, and look forward to heading home. Put the radio on in the car and enjoy a song you really like to lift your spirits, or listen to an interesting podcast or audiobook if you’re on the bus, tram or train. Don’t check your emails or start planning what you’ll do tomorrow.

Ask for help

One of the most important tips for improving your mental health is learning that you can ask for help and support. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by your workload, feeling down because of a colleague’s criticisms, or just feeling like you need to talk to someone, ask to speak to your boss privately and explain the situation. They should try and help you, offer support and see what changes can be made to help make your role more manageable.
Remember that there’s no reason to appear ‘strong’ or ‘capable,’ and experiencing mental health issues should always be given the same level of sympathy and attention that physical injuries get.
If you want to find a caring job that will support you every step of the way, talk to our lovely team, and check out the mental health charity Mind for more information and resources.