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The secret to a happy workplace

How can you, and organisations, prioritise promoting positive mental health? Tania Diggory, founder of Calmer explains

by Psychologies

For most of us, work plays a big part in our lives and it’s where we place a lot of our time and energy. However, today mental ill-health is estimated as the leading cause of sickness absence in the workplace and there is growing evidence to show that addressing wellbeing at work can increase long-term happiness and productivity.

Here’s the good news

A study conducted by The Global Wellness Institute shows that the Global Wellness Market is now three times larger than the Worldwide Pharmaceutical Industry. Wellness sectors seeing the most significant growth since 2010 include healthy eating, nutrition, weight loss, fitness and mind-body, and – you may have guessed this next one… workplace wellness.

Every day, people around the world are becoming more empowered to take control of their day-to-day routine and nurture their wellbeing. Are you one of them? Growing research highlights the long-term health benefits of taking part in creative and therapeutic activities, mindfulness practices and exercise, to name a few. With this in mind, more organisations are realising that applying these benefits within the work context can create long-term rewards.

Whether its flexible working, free fitness classes and gyms, bringing pets to work, allowing staff allocated time during working hours to focus on ‘passion projects’, having ‘mindfulness check-ins’ at the start of team meetings or offering a range of self-development learning opportunities... there is growing evidence that these kind of employee benefits go a long way.

I’m not just talking about the likes of Google, Virgin and Netflix, here. These are examples of what I’ve personally witnessed as a workplace wellbeing practitioner through my business Calmer, and through delivering managing mental health at work training for Mind, the mental health charity. No doubt about it, this approach to embedding a culture of wellness at work is catching on.

As a result of having this kind of freedom, a large number of these companies end up retaining outstanding employees that are motivated, inspired and loyal, because most importantly, they enjoy coming to work and feel they’re adding value.

It’s never been a better time to listen to the evidence, give it a go and embed a wellness practice at work that can significantly boost morale, creativity and productivity in staff. What’s the best that could happen?

Here’s the reality

It is estimated by ACAS that each year over 91 million working days are lost due to mental ill-health and costs UK employers over 30 billion, more than for any other illness. That’s pretty staggering, isn’t it? Or perhaps you’re not surprised?

Have a think about your current place of work. Is flexible working encouraged? Do you feel trusted to do the work you’re assigned to do, without feeling micro-managed? Do you feel appreciated for your contribution to the company? Can you clearly outline the employee benefits at work? Are breaks encouraged? Do you take all your entitled annual leave days or do you feel guilty for booking time off?

I could ask many more questions of this nature, but you get the gist. What are your peers putting into place to create a culture at work that brings people together and creates an environment that you look forward to going to every day?

A sense of belonging

As human beings, we have an innate need to belong, to connect with others, to feel appreciated and valued. To contribute to something bigger than ourselves. The workplace presents an opportunity to be a part of something, the growth of an idea that came from one person or a group of individuals and is being driven forward by more people – each person using their individual skills to help enable this idea. To build, grow and do everything possible to maximise the potential of the business.

Every. Employee. Matters.

There is a reason every person within an organisation is recruited. There is a need for specific skill-sets, those hired are contributing to a cause and each role helps to connect the dots that make a business function and grow.

Let’s use the analogy of building a shed, or a house, or a large building, or even a skyscraper – the bigger the size of the building, the stronger the foundations need to be in order to support its structure. It’s the same principle for growing a business. Whatever the size of the company, it’s the people contributing their skills and putting systems in place that enable the business to grow. As Richard Branson famously said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” It’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about running successful companies.

Prevention is key

It’s common to experience stress at work but in short bursts, stress can actually be good for you. It can help you focus, motivate you to take action and can even teach you something valuable. But what happens when stress starts to build, and lots of little bits of stress start to pile on top of one another, to the point you’re feeling ‘full up’ with stress – have you felt this way? Have you felt this way at work?

When reflecting on your own mental health and wellbeing, it’s important to recognise early warning signs and what the triggers of stress could be for you. Embedding wellness practices at work can create an incredibly valuable long-term impact and from a personal perspective, there are numerous support options, charity organisations and activities available today that serve to help others manage their mental health and prevent stress from escalating.

It’s about exploring what’s out there – what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. So in a world of countless opportunities, isn’t it exciting that you have the chance to explore what kind of wellbeing routine can work for you and help you manage your health effectively? Would you like to empower yourself to do just that?

A good time to make a positive change

During my career so far, I’ve explored a 360 view of what makes businesses tick, what makes them run effectively and, most importantly, not-so-effectively. What I’ve experienced in my time as an employee within both small and large organisations, as a freelance contractor, being self-employed and running three different businesses – and having experienced my own mental health challenges as well – has been a huge learning curve. This has significantly influenced the course of my career and led me to where I am now.

We’re living in an exciting time in history, both for the wellbeing industry and for employee engagement. I believe that organisations launching wellbeing initiatives and making the shift to embrace a culture of wellness at work, one that is community-driven and nurtures the mental health of their employees, not only increases the likelihood of retention of staff but also paves the way to inspire future generations.