Employers, we need to talk

Talking. It’s something we do day in, day out (usually about the weather for us Brits!), but why is it that when the topic turns to mental health, there’s often silence?

Despite mental health awareness being on the rise thanks to the pandemic, there’s no denying that it’s still very much a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace. Yep, you guessed it, there’s a statistic coming and it’s a pretty eye-opening one for managers…

51% of employees are not comfortable bringing up their mental health struggles with their managers (Benefits Pro).

Concerning to think that more than half of your staff could be silently suffering hey? The main reasons for keeping shtum are often down to being afraid of other people’s responses. As well as fear of discrimination and feelings of shame, as found by the Mental Health Foundation.

Breaking the silence

So, as business leaders, how can you encourage your people to open up?

Don’t worry, you don’t need to be an expert to talk about mental health. What you do need though, is to lead by example and be open yourself. By simply sharing your own story - whether that’s struggles you’ve personally experienced or purely how you look after your own wellbeing, you could make a bigger difference than you think.

The more conversations we have, the more myth-busting we can do and with today being Time to Talk Day (4th February 2021) there’s no better time than the present to start those all-important conversations.

We’re all human. We all have mental health.

Even us at Key Wellbeing. Despite being an organisation that’s focussed on providing tools and resources to help workforces keep mentally well, we too have seen and personally experienced the effect of mental-ill health in our community.

So, to practice what we preach and kick-start the conversation, we thought we’d open up a little about our own stories…

Marie Ranson, Co-Director, Key Wellbeing

“Managing my own mental health over the pandemic has required a reality check. At the start, I found myself being entirely focussed on work, as we were launching some exciting projects with Key Wellbeing. However, with opportunities for 'in-person' connections reduced over lockdown, gyms closing and feeling distant from friends and family, I started to notice that I was feeling out of balance, sluggish and at times even a little overwhelmed - kind of ironic when you are building a wellbeing business huh?!”

“I knew it was time to better structure my day, so I started making a 1 hour lunch break a priority. I started walking more, getting fresh air, followed online workout videos to get the blood pumping and I even added a 20 minute 'virtual commute' into my calendar at either end of the day - time that is just mine, a buffer between home and work to listen to music, meditate, walk, dance, anything that gives me a bit of mental space between home life and work life. Of course, all of this really helped and I know that it's what I must do to avoid 'burnout' and to feel more balanced."

Melissa Armstrong, Co-Director, Key Wellbeing

“Like many others, I’ve found it challenging with all the uncertainty this last year. Juggling work and home-schooling while my husband works away has been quite the balancing act. I have felt really overwhelmed and unsure how I can manage at times and as a result have had to really up my self-care routine to make me feel more in control.”

“I now make sure that I get up an hour before the children to do my breathing exercises and fit in a yoga or Pilates session followed by a healthy breakfast. Thanks to my hyperactive dog, I also get out for a walk before I start work which gives me a little bit of a buffer and the well-needed fresh air! Just giving myself this time to calm my mind before work, helps me to focus better for the day and reduce the overwhelming feeling.”

From an internal perspective, we’ve also added a few policies that have really made a difference to our own mental wellbeing. We recommend giving them a go in your own organisation:

· No meetings before 10am – This allows us to have personal time before we start and get the home-schooling underway.

· One-hour lunch breaks are mandatory – Providing the chance to move, have a much-needed screen break, eat and get some fresh air.

· No meeting policy on Fridays – Zoom fatigue is REAL, we all need a break from it, so we make Friday meetings a no-go.

· Walking meetings (guidelines permitting!) – There’s something about being outdoors in nature that sparks creativity, even if it’s just a walk around the local park. Not only that, it gets us moving and we can sometimes get that longed for Vitamin D from the sunshine.

By sharing your challenges as a business leader or manager, it can make you appear more human, relatable and admiringly brave to your staff. Even better, there’s research that shows this style of authentic leadership can cultivate trust and improve your people’s performance and engagement – making the simple act of talking, a win-win for everyone.

Start the conversation today.

If you would like to learn more about supporting employee’s mental health, please get in touch. We’d love to help:https://www.keywellbeing.co.uk/

Melissa Armstrong and Marie Ranson,
Co-founders of Key Wellbeing Ltd.

Proudly from Teesside in the North East of England, Melissa and Marie have 15 years of wellbeing experience.

We’ve both seen and personally experienced the impact that mental ill-health can have on our families and the wider community and for that reason, we are both super passionate about helping people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, especially at work.