For many fast-growing businesses, promoting their employees’ good all round health is a key part of company culture. And because the connection between good physical and mental health is now long established, the physical side of wellbeing is a crucial part of the puzzle.
The NHS now advises adults (19 – 64) to be doing two and a half hours a week. But a recent survey commissioned by Pure Gym found that 1 in 3 adults don’t manage this, with 73 per cent citing work pressures as the key reason why.
Stress at work, long commuting hours and missed lunched breaks are the biggest factors. In a Mental Health Foundation study, 86% of respondents thought that their job and working environment were really important for maintaining their mental wellbeing. And they’re absolutely right.
The Pure Gym survey found that 52% of companies currently offer things like subsidised gym memberships and a cycle to work scheme. But of those that do, uptake is only at 23% - so there is a promotional task for managers and colleagues to take upon themselves too.
As Pure Gym’s strategic and commercial development director, Francine Davis, says: “Regular exercise has many workplace benefits, including increased energy levels and a reduced risk of stress and depression.”
A healthy body is a major contributor to a healthy mind
With mental health in the public eye more and more, thanks to the work of charities like Heads Together, supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, it’s easier than ever for businesses to promote good mental health among their staff.
And this absolutely is in everyone’s interest: mental ill-health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year.
So whether you’re an employer or employee, here are four things that many fast growth companies adopt to promote healthy, happy and supportive work environments.
Exercise and flexible working
A healthy body is a major contributor to a healthy mind. Take advantage of company subsidised gym memberships and cycle to work schemes. Many fast growing businesses also have their own running clubs one a week.
Having strong mental health leadership is fundamental to having a mentally fit and healthy workspace
So whatever is available, take advantage of it! And if it isn’t available yet, you can help set one up.
It’s also important to be part of a working culture that promote full lunch breaks, flexi-hours including agreed mornings or half days working from home. All things that are proven to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Mental health leadership
Where leaders lead, others follow. Having strong mental health leadership is fundamental to having a mentally fit and healthy workspace.
Aside from this being so important for employee wellbeing, it’s also been proven that when business leaders speak out about promoting good mental health in their organisation it can have a hugely positive impact on employee motivation and efficiency.
Raising awareness & training
Linked to the above, this is about having a visible and audible commitment to good mental health in the workplace.
This means posters, meetings and announcements. If you are an employer, you can join over 450 other employers and sign the Time To Change Pledge. They’ll even help you put an action plan together.
Managers might also need to specialist training to have conversations with staff about their mental health. Again, Time To Change can help.
An open culture
It’s crucial that all the above is backed up with a genuinely open culture that provides the space and time for staff to talk and mangers to listen.
The stigma that ‘bottling up’ and ‘soldiering on’ is what’s best is still something that has to be overcome. Creating a working environment that encourages openness and dialogue, with fixed meetings for these discussions, is crucial to breaking this down.
Sanctus, is a start-up which wants to change the perception of mental health in the workplace. The founder, George Bettany, gave us this tip:
“It’s likely you spend more time with your colleagues than you do your own family, and there are always a few people you are closest to in the office. Once a week try to ask someone you are closest to how they are really doing. Try to avoid the classic 'How are you?' ... 'Great, how are you?' and go a bit deeper. Really mean the question and take the time to listen. You might also want to try doing this out of the office at lunch or even arrange to go for a coffee catch-up before work.”
So get talking, start listening and be open!
There are lots of organisations that can help your workplace become a promoter of good mental health. Aside from the pledge, above, there is the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, the NHS’s Healthy Working Lives and Sanctus.