Today is World Mental Health Day – a global opportunity for people and organisations to discuss the topic of mental health and, more importantly, what needs to be done to make mental wellbeing – through a healthier work-life balance – a reality for more people worldwide.

At Workspace, we take the wellbeing of our customers extremely seriously. In fact, we recently signed up to the UK Green Building Council’s (UK-GBC) Wellbeing Lab, where we, along with other leading companies, will embark upon projects about health and wellbeing in the workplace.

As Workspace’s Energy and Sustainability Manager, Karen Jamison has led this incentive, in part due to her own feelings around how critical establishing a work / wellbeing balance is, and how activity can feed into that; “Exercise, even something as simple as going for a walk at lunchtime, helps you to focus and concentrate on something else for a while so that when you go back to work you have a clear mind, and can be more effective – essentially, it gives you the ability to work less and achieve more!”

Workspace will also be moving, in Autumn this year, to a newly refurbished office in Canterbury Court and we will be carrying out an Indoor Environmental Quality assessment (measuring temperature, air quality, and noise levels amongst other factors) along with a staff survey; with the intention to learn from our own experience and look to improve health & wellbeing in our future refurbishments and developments for our customers.

We feel that this type of learning and knowledge sharing is something that needs to happen more often, especially about matters as important as World Mental Health Day. To that end, we sought to learn from a number of Workspace customers that already take the view that a healthy body leads to a healthier mind.

We chatted with Kamina Nagel of Yogaia, based at our E1 Studios, about the biggest challenges to peace of mind entrepreneurs face at work.

Hard work at the expense of our physical and mental wellbeing

“We live in a society that values long hours and rewards hard work,” says Kamina. “Often, these things come at the expense of both our physical and mental health. The irony is that the unrealistic and stressful expectations we have on our employees are actually costing us 70 million work days in the UK alone due to mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression.

“Our biggest challenge is to ultimately redefine what success in the workplace looks like, by honouring and actively promoting work-life balance through flexible working options, if possible, and integrating coping strategies like meditation and yoga into the lifeblood of company culture.

“We need to be rewarding people for keeping themselves healthy and well by integrating personal wellness into our achievements and goals, instead of only focusing on the narrow-minded objective of reaching company goals.”

Johanna Francis, of Ten Health and Fitness, based at Barley Mow Centre, also suggests Pilates can play a role in maintaining a healthier work-life balance.

Pilates: helping you to find your centre – literally and physically

“A true Pilates practice combines breath and movement together. It focuses the mind and body on working together. If you try and do Pilates in a stressed-out, angry state of mind, it just won’t happen – you need to find your centre quite literally and physically,” said Johanna.

“Making Pilates a regular part of your life can also help your work-life balance as it also provides a boost of endorphins and self-confidence. What’s more, the exercises that you do can help you improve your muscle strength and posture so that you can sit, move and work better with your body – whatever job you do.”

Both Kamina and Johanna agree that the stigma attached to mental health is one particular barrier that needs breaking to enable people to feel comfortable talking through their problems and concerns with others.

Breaking the social stigma of mental health

“There should be no shame in discussing mental health, but unfortunately there is still a stigma attached to the conversation and many people refuse to discuss it,” said Kamina.

“The truth is, these issues can happen to anyone and be triggered by anything, from loneliness, having a baby, losing a loved one or job or falling into debt. We need to be driving an open and inclusive culture where it’s okay to speak up, be listened to and feel supported. There are too many people suffering in silence.”

Johanna admitted that she was “one of those people” who felt “embarrassed and ashamed about bringing the subject up” after she suffered a cluster of anxiety attacks which took her out of work for more than two months, three years ago.

“I decided that when I returned to work I would tell my clients exactly what happened and be open – and you know what? For every ten clients I told, at least two would come and say ‘I have something similar’ or ‘That happened to me too!’ or ‘My brother/mother/sister/partner has this all the time’,” said Johanna.

“It was so affirming and I ended up writing a whole article on it for my company which got incredible feedback and clients and colleagues alike now openly talk to me about this issue because they feel confident I understand and won’t judge them.”

Kamina and Johanna use their respective love of yoga and pilates to find peace in their day, refocus and achieve a more balanced state of mind.

“At Yogaia, we see yoga as a way of life. It’s not just about the asanas (yoga poses), but rather living a yogic way of life – one that focuses on equality and kindness, mental wellness and physical health, and cultivating community and your own personal practice,” said Kamina.

Aside from signing up to your first yoga class, Kamina also recommends two other small, realistic changes to your daily routine:

“Make sure you take your lunch break. Go for a walk, and avoid eating at your desk. Breaking up the day with good food and some fresh air can do wonders for your mental health. Finally, try meditating for five minutes before bed. Simply find a comfortable seated position, whether it’s cross-legged on a cushion or on a chair, set your time to five minutes and simply breathe.”

“For me, mindfulness is one of the best practices I took up that I do every day that made a definite change to my focus and wellbeing,” said Johanna.

“Every morning on my walk to work I ‘check in’ with my body. I put some relaxing music on (preferably without lyrics) and as I’m walking I take notice of my breath. How could is the air today? What smells are around me when I breathe in? What does the morning light look like today? What sounds can I hear? And then on to my own body – how does my body feel today as I’m walking. Do I feel tired, weak, strong? Any muscular aches? By the time I get to work I am completely present in my body and my space.”

Workspace: a healthy, vibrant business community

Both Yogaia and Ten Health and Fitness play an active part within the Workspace business community and that healthy interaction is another important aspect of giving businesses the freedom and flexibility to grow and collaborate.

“As a start-up, we love the vibrant small business community at Workspace,” said Kamina.

“We feel lucky to be located in such an awesome part of London for good coffee – and lots of it! – and delicious restaurant options for our many team lunches. The Workspace team is also incredibly helpful and easy to work with and have done a great job in creating a great space for small businesses to thrive.”

“Working at Ten Health and Fitness is really enjoyable as we see a lot of people from offices coming down on their lunch break in order to de-stress and get their daily dose of fitness and/or relaxation,” said Johanna.

“It’s great to interact with these people outside of the studio and get to know them within the community too.”

Would your business thrive within the Workspace community? If you’re looking for flexible business space in London then please don’t hesitate to view our available spaces and arrange viewings by clicking here.