Written by Jen Ferguson
Jen is one of Remarkable’s trained Mental Health First Aiders, with over 15 years lived experience of Mental Health and a passion for mental health and wellbeing advocacy. Contact her on twitter @office_jen or by email at email@example.com
More than ever before, ‘wellbeing’ is the buzzword that everyone is throwing around the (still virtual, for the most part) workplace. The last 18 months have brought an entirely new set of challenges into everyone’s lives, personal and professional, and the one good thing to come out of it is that employers and employees alike are far more aware, and far more appreciative, of how important mental health and wellbeing are to productivity.
Working remotely has been tough for so many people, particularly extroverts or those who live alone – if you’re lucky enough to work for an organisation that normalises talking about mental health, it’s less scary to reach out and admit when you’re struggling. Even if it’s just something as simple as, “I won’t have my camera on today, I don’t have the energy”, or “I’m taking a duvet day to recharge”, having the trust in your colleagues and managers to be that vulnerable is a big step, and one that encourages loyalty and engagement when employers get it right.
For those of us living with poor mental health, wellbeing is something we are far more aware of than the average employee. And while that awareness can be useful, it can also be intensely frustrating when we see it dismissed or when employers fall short. It’s not just taking a bubble bath after a hard day or doing yoga in the morning. It’s a constant awareness of things that can trigger poor mental health, constantly working to build resilience, learning our strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how to look after our own mental and physical wellbeing can be scary; but that awareness also makes for stronger, more resilient, more engaged employees.
One of the larger issues is that ‘wellbeing’ is such a nebulous term – it can cover everything from eating the occasional salad, to taking a walk in the sunshine, to having a flexible working pattern (and location). But just because it’s in the public consciousness, doesn’t mean it’s easy for employers to know how best to embed it into their practices. It’s all too easy to set up a few mindfulness sessions at lunchtimes and call it done. Even if a senior leader is invested in wellbeing, it can be overwhelming – just google ‘wellbeing at work’, and you’re confronted with a dizzying array of initiatives, ideas, and research. It’s easy to hit information overload.
So why try to embed wellbeing in the workplace when it’s so difficult to define in the first place? From the CIPD:
“Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity.”
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
Starting small – with those lunchtime mindfulness sessions, or an office fruit bowl – can lead to wide cultural changes that benefit the business at large. Flexible working, and a better work-life balance, means that employees are more engaged, more likely to go the extra mile. More likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work, too.
Training managers in how to have sensitive conversations and signpost support means less long-term absences as problems are nipped in the bud. Feeling that a manager or employer genuinely cares can build engagement and loyalty and encourage employees to be more productive.
It’s a difficult tightrope for employers to walk; the employees who are most engaged with the idea of wellbeing are likely the employees that already practice it in their personal lives. It’s reaching the hold-outs that is both the challenge, and the most rewarding and impactful to the business at large. The language that we use can make a difference – those who roll their eyes at the idea of meditation might be more engaged by ‘focus time’. It’s another reason why buzzwords can be as harmful as they are helpful. Laying out the proven economic benefits can get through to some employers when a softer, ‘because we want to show our team that we care’ might not.
But regardless of the economic benefits; we should encourage wellbeing because we’re all people. We all have mental and physical health, and that health fluctuates over time. If we can work together to build a stronger, healthier workforce, that cascades through into personal lives, into the community as a whole. And really – couldn’t we all do with a stronger community right now?
If you’d like to learn more about Wellbeing, Remarkable offers a range of support – from 1:1 coaching, to Mental Health First Aid Training, find out more here.
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