Workplace Wellbeing: Mental Health Days

Posted by Gary Duguid on 01/11/2017

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It's time to think about mental health in the workplace. 

In the last few years, awareness of mental health has increased significantly. More recently, the relationship between work and wellbeing has gained traction, especially with this year’s World Mental Health Day focusing on a theme of “mental health in the workplace”. With the World Health Organisation estimating that one in four people will suffer from some form of mental health condition in their lifetime, it is no surprise that workplace wellness is becoming significant - as a large proportion of the working popular could be affected."

With this in mind, we take a closer look at “mental health days” (when time is taken to manage the symptoms of issues such as depression and anxiety). What are the opinions and what simple solutions are there for enhancing workplace wellness?

The opinions

Those in favour: There is no difference between taking time off for physical or mental illness. This parallels the ever-growing opinion that mental illness is just as significant as physical pain. If you’re in agony due to back pain, you’re not judged for taking a day off, so should it be any different for taking time to reduce the pain associated with anxiety or depression?

The more dubious: There are concerns that some may abuse a mental health day policy. Equally, even if mental health days do become part of a company’s policy, employees may still feel embarrassed to admit they are taking one.

There is no consensus on mental health days, but arguably it is an employer’s duty to be aware of the mental health issues that exist in the workforce and to reduce the stigma surrounding these.


The steps for change

According to the BBC, 500 renowned companies including Tesco and M&S have recently pledged to train managers to raise awareness and spot the signs of mental illness in employees.

Training schemes such as these are positive catalysts for change, but could take months to implement. For workplaces needing to be more proactive in the short term, here are five alternative approaches:

1. Reduce stigma
This could be as simple as opening up lines of communication between managers and their direct reports. Ensure that no one is judged for being honest about his or her mental health.

2. Reward hard work
A great way to enhance self-esteem and therefore overall wellbeing is to reward hard work. In addition to verbal praise, reward can come in the form of socials, or even something as simple as sweet treats every now and then!

3. Make your workplace more sociable
Great ideas are often sparked through mingling. Chances are that an office that promotes social interaction and collaboration is an office that is happier, as well as more creative and productive. Achieve this with hot-desking, spontaneous meetings and regular social events.

4. Promote flexibility
Offer a collage of workspaces, which gives team members the choice of where and how they want to work. By giving this freedom, staff members will feel more in control of their own productivity, which is great news for workplace happiness and output.

5. Encourage healthy lifestyles
Promote walking or cycling to work and eating away from desks. Equally, if you have the space, think about installing in-office showers, or even gym equipment – this makes it easier for staff members to cycle to work, or to exercise at a time convenient to them. In addition to being the perfect way to take a break or to find the headspace to solve a complex problem, this can have a hugely positive effect on mental health.

With these approaches in mind, it’s clear to see how simple changes can enhance the overall wellness and mental health of your workforce.

The Castle Gym

How Interaction can help

Here at Interaction, we know first hand how workplace design and culture can positively affect wellbeing. Not only does our studio bring out the best in our people, but the workplaces we create promote flexibility, creativity and collaboration – the key ingredients for a happy and successful workforce.

To find how you can make the most of your workplace, why not get in touch with our office design experts here at Interaction?