Image: DDB Paris
Event: World Mental Health Day
Date: 10th October
Theme: Mental Health in the Workplace
Today is the 25th anniversary of the first World Mental Health Day, an event created by the international organisation, World Federation for Mental Health, aiming to make mental health a priority for all. The Day’s overall goal is to raise awareness of mental health issues, educate the public, and provide support for those who experience them.
This year’s theme is Mental Health in the Workplace, an issue that not only affects individuals, but also their employers, since 77% of workers experience symptoms of poor mental health, losing businesses up to £100 billion a year in employee absenteeism and reduced productivity.
Since so much of our time is spent at work, the work environment plays a huge role in determining the rest of our wellbeing – and yet 30% of employees cite their wellbeing in the workplace as ‘unhappy’ or ‘extremely unhappy’ while, according to mental health charity Mind, fewer than half of people with a diagnosed mental health issue had told their manager, and 20% of employees were uncomfortable telling their boss if they were overly stressed at work. A recent report found that 15% of employees who had disclosed mental health issues faced, demotions, disciplinary procedures, and even dismissal.
By focusing on mental health at work, the World Federation of Mental Health hopes to reduce stigma of mental health in the workplace and foster open communication, identify when employees may need help, and provide support to those who need it.
While brands can and have used marketing and advertising to engage consumers through the subject of mental health – like Beyoncé’s collaboration with Mind on communication for activewear brand Ivy Park, and LADBible’s “U OK M8?’, a platform on their website through which people can address mental health issues – brands and marketing firms can start by looking to their own workplace practices. Employers can sign the Time to Change Employer Pledge, but we can also, as individuals, develop our own healthy workplace habits.
How can you look after your mental health at work?
Make the most of your commute. We spend a pretty big chunk of our day commuting, which is can be time-consuming, uncomfortable, and sometimes stressful. If you have the time, walking and biking are great commuting alternatives, providing exercise and fresh air for a healthy start to the day. Otherwise, try to relax on your commute by reading, or listening to music and podcasts.
Find ways to be active. Our lifestyles are much more sedentary than we were even a few years ago. Regular exercise has been linked to improved health in general, and to lower rates of anxiety and depression. And you don’t need to run marathons or sweat through daily HIIT classes for the benefits to kick in (although they can be great) – even small changes like stretching in the morning, and getting off the bus a stop earlier can have huge, almost immediate effects on your mental wellbeing!
Use your lunch break. Just 30% of UK employees take their full lunch breaks, and many people now take working lunches (and even desk breakfasts!). Instead of rushing to eat and get back to work, try to use the time to go outside, take a walk, or chat to co-workers. Taking short breaks from work can reduce stress and allows you to refocus. A proper lunch break – coupled with a healthy, filling meal – can increase your productivity, concentration and energy in the afternoon.
Listen to music while you work. According to 77% of UK businesses, music helps to improve the workplace atmosphere and boost morale. Music can block out the sounds around you and help you focus on work, while stimulating production of your body’s natural ‘feel-good’ neuropeptides like dopamine (which boosts both happiness and concentration).
Don’t bring your work home. Since the invention of email, we’re all available 24/7, which can make it difficult to establish a clear boundary between your work and home life, and means you can’t always create a healthy balance. Being constantly hooked into our emails is a form of ‘presenteeism’ in which workers are focusing on work for longer, without actually gaining in productivity. If you work from home, try working from a café, or choosing an area of your house for work only, with clear start and end times.
Take time to learn new things. Lifelong learning – and the goal setting often involved – is linked to higher rates of life satisfaction and self-esteem. Setting realistic, achievable goals can give you a feeling of purpose and achievement, while interests outside work help you to meet new people and keep a good work-life balance.