As we near one-year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the topic of mental health in the workplace becomes even more prominent, and rightly so. In recent years, there have been many campaigns and charities focusing on mental health, specifically in the workplace, to encourage more people to talk about and understand it. This is to help remove the stigma attached to certain aspects of mental health while providing support for everyone. Since March 2020, this discussion has been accelerated with more people now working from home, and wellbeing has been impacted in one way or another by lockdowns across the country. In this blog, we cover how you can invest in your team’s mental health, how we’ve tackled it throughout the year, and tips for working from home.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England
Last year, we were proud to work with MHFA England, a social enterprise who offer expert guidance and training to support mental health, in the workplace and beyond. Mental health awareness and wellbeing for the whole team has always been high on the agenda for us as a company, so in January 2020, we were delighted to have our Team Administrator, Hannah, complete the course to become a certified Mental Health First Aider. Since then, we’ve had other members of the team feel inspired to take part in MHFA awareness courses, with another, who’ll become fully certified later this year.
The aim of a Mental Health First Aider is to have designated people within a company who understand the important factors which affect mental ill-health and identify the signs for a range of conditions. Though not taught to be a therapist or a counsellor, diagnose mental health conditions or provide ongoing support, students are taught the five-step MHFA action plan; how to listen non-judgmentally and where to signpost people to get professional help. Think of it in a similar way to a physical first aider - they are there to stop the bleeding before an ambulance is called
According to MHFA, One in four of us are likely to suffer from mental ill-health each year, and it could affect our work life. That’s why it’s beneficial to invest in mental health first aid training; it’s a great tool for team wellbeing, and it's good for everyone to know they’re supported if they need it. Having a mental health first aider on the team, or becoming one yourself means you can:
- Become aware of your own wellbeing - Mental first aid training helps you become aware of your own mental health which is the first step. Investing in yourself sends a powerful message to the team.
- Begin the conversation - Investing in this kind of training starts a conversation around mental health within the company, already building a more positive working environment.
- Build a positive culture - Talking about mental health in this way will build a positive team culture that will support your current employees and attract new ones with a similar mindset.
- Understand potential triggers - A mental health first aider will have learnt how to spot the first signs of poor mental health which takes away any pressure and enables them to support if needed.
- Help recovery - A mental health first aider will have been trained to support recovery, helping team members adjust back into working life.
- Build workplace resilience - Investing in the training will provide resilient foundations for any business. Not only will your team live happier, your business will prosper too.
Most importantly, it’s good to talk. Here are some useful talking tips from MHFA:
We all have mental health. Better mental health is good for everyone and recognising this is good for society.
Mental Health at 3WhiteHats
After completing the MHFA certification last year, we had already planned to step up the discussions around mental health and awareness within the office. During our next company meeting, we talked about signs to look out for if you are under too much stress and suggestions for how to deal with it. Hannah gave an inspiring talk to the team, explaining what MHFA is and that if anyone needed anyone to talk to then she would always be there. A mental health specific guide has been made available on our internal wiki system, which details the signs of stress and ill-mental health, what steps to take, who to chat to at work, and links to helpful resources, such as:
- Working from home: a Wellness Action Plan (WAP)
- 10 keys to happier living
- Samaritans - Call from any phone 116123
- Living life to the full
- Calm Meditation app - Breethe or Calm
- Every mind matters
- NHS Mood Self Assessment
The Covid-19 pandemic then stepped it up to a new level, for us and also the country. Like a lot of companies, we moved to remote working straight away. As a very close team who have always been office based, this was a huge change for everyone. Our biggest priority was everyone’s safety, both physically and mentally. We made it very clear from the start that social distancing is not emotional distancing.
As the months passed, it became clear that at least for a little while, the situation we were in was going to be the “new normal” so we thought of ways to stay positive and connected as a team. Throughout the summer we completed fun challenges together like #7for7, where everyone recorded 7 minutes of exercise for 7 days, the South West Coast Path and LeJog, where we travelled the length of the UK (over 1000 miles from Lands End to John o’Groats) and raised £475 for Community Heart.
At 3WhiteHats our team culture is the heart of everything we do, and keeping this alive while working remotely is important to us, not to mention good for mental health. To do this, we started up some virtual clubs to get people talking outside of work which includes a book club, a film club and introduced ‘3WH Coffee Buddies’ where everyone is paired with a different team member to set aside 15 minutes to just have a chat and a coffee over video call. One of the biggest challenges for mental health in the past 12 months has been the isolation and we have found that giving people different opportunities to interact has been a massive help.
Tips for working from home
Whilst working from home was not something we had originally planned, we have received some really great feedback from the team about their productivity working away from the office. In a recent team survey about how people would like to use the office in a post-Covid world, not a single person wanted to be in the office “full-time” again and there are some very obvious benefits of moving to a hybrid, more flexible way of working once we eventually reopen the office. At the start of lockdown 1.0, we shared these tips for working remotely with team 3WH and believe that they have helped us embrace the positives of working from home.
- Routine - Try to give yourself a routine from getting up, showering and having breakfast at a set time, to sitting down at your computer.
- Environment - Where possible, try to identify a work area. Where this isn’t possible then try to build this into your routine - make your work area yours during the day then clear it away at the end of the day.
- Daily schedule - Set yourself a daily schedule. Work in short bursts, around 60-90 minutes. Try and have these uninterrupted, followed by a short break.
- Breaks - Sitting for long periods at a desk isn’t good for our physical health. Leave your desk for lunch or breaks.
- Exercise - It’s important to release endorphins to ensure you feel well, both mentally and physically. Why not use your usual commute time to exercise? This will help you start the day with a positive frame of mind.
- You should also try to do other things to stay mentally and physically active outside of your working hours e.g. take up a new hobby
- Water - Drink lots of water, slow down on the caffeine, you may find you’re drinking way more working at home.
- Keeping in touch - This should include regular communication between you, your manager and other work colleagues. Use the telephone for a connected conversation, not emails all of the time - we may start to feel isolated.
- Home time - Remember to switch from “work mode” to “home mode”. You may choose one form of exercise such as taking a walk around the block or going for a run.
- Sleep - Keep to your regular bedtime. It may be tempting to stay up that bit later, but the reality is that sleep has a massive impact on our wellbeing and productivity.
- Be mindful - We should be practical, flexible and sensitive to each other's situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
- Finally, do remember ‘This too will pass’. We are in exceptional circumstances and we will all respond differently at different times. Be kind and look out for each other.
If you would like more information about training to become a Mental Health First Aider, check out MHFA, or if you either live or work in Cornwall, then head to Healthy Cornwall as they are currently offering fully funded MHFA courses. Looking after your own mental health and the people around you is more important now than it may ever have been and it is a great opportunity to keep the conversation going, both at home and at work.
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