Wouldn’t it be great if we were excited to go to work every day, knowing it was a place that empowered us to do our very best work? A positive workplace that ensures everyone’s wellbeing is the best breeding ground for productivity. When your work environment fosters commitment for each team member’s welfare, mental and physical, it allows employees and employers to reach their goals more sustainably. Let’s take a look at the state of mental health at work and the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of a truly healthy workplace.
A Mentally Healthy Workplace Benefits Everybody
When we are in the right place mentally, we become flexible in how we deal with pressures. We work productively, realising our potential for contributing to our family, our workplace and our community.
The case for good mental health at work cannot be overstated. Mental health is supported by good nutrition and exercise, along with supplementary holistic activities that boost resilience.
More than ever, workers are susceptible to stress, anxiety and depression, as revealed in Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In1 in April this year. A decade ago, one in five Australians2 experienced mental health issues. Now it is one in three, with depression the most prevalent.3 Increased pressures at home and work-related stress are driving the numbers up. As an employee, good mental health is a must in today’s fast-paced working world.
Good mental health is no longer an issue that only needs to be resolved on a personal level, it’s also an issue for business, as it impacts on the way people live and work.
Savvy employers recognise the growing need to maintain healthy workplaces as part of sound business practice. When companies prioritise the wellbeing of their most important asset – their employees – not only do they they stand to gain more productive hours, they also boost morale. A positive workplace makes for better management, lower costs and a stronger brand that can increase a company’s bottom line. It pays to invest in mental health.
- workers thrive
- better productivity
- less absenteeism
- fewer compensation claims
- more job satisfaction and better engagement
- improved turnover rates and hiring costs
- better leverage for hiring good talent
- ROI that’s more than double every dollar spent on promoting mental health
- fulfils a legal requirement for businesses under Federal Work and Safety laws5
5 Ways to Ensure a Healthy Workplace
- Model work-life balance
Encourage work habits that promote wellbeing among managers and staff. Encourage people to eat lunch on time with ample breaks during the day to re-energise.
- Educate managers and staff about topics related to managing stress and maintaining good mental health
Offer reading resources, training and workshops on how to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. Be open to discussions about mental health.
- Be proactive in recognising signs of distress and do informal early intervention.
While professional help is always the best choice, being aware of changes in people’s performance or behaviour is an excellent first step to offering help.
- Offer support to anyone in need
A caring work environment makes it easier for individuals who may be struggling to get back on their feet.
- Check in with anyone taking time off work due to health reasons
Make them feel like they still belong to the organisation without judgement or stigma.
3 Steps to Creating a Mentally Healthy Workplace
Workplaces that promote good mental health all have one thing in common: they follow the 3 step framework as mandated by Federal Work and Safety guidelines.4
Management is committed to addressing mental health at work and shows leadership in creating a caring workplace culture that values acceptance and fairness.
Employers make sure that workloads, relationships and the physical work environment foster goodwill for all. Appropriate adjustments are made when an employee’s performance falters. They use a strengths-based approach for assigning tasks until the employee feels confident to get back on track.
Most importantly, mentally healthy workplaces support employees as they return to work following recovery from illness, mental or otherwise. They provide a safe place for people to resume their lives with dignity and compassion.
How Mindfulness Benefits the Working Parent
We often tell children to pay attention, but it is ironic how many working parents go on autopilot just to get through the day. They multitask to get through a hoopla of to-do lists, school runs and office meetings without savouring the little things that make it all worthwhile. One effective strategy that can give immense help for frazzled working parents is mindfulness training. Studies reveal that people with mindfulness skills cope better with stress, focus more, and have a better handle on their emotions.
Mindfulness has already been introduced in today’s workplace to help many employees clear their heads for better productivity, but how can it benefit the working parent?
The Secret to Work-Life Balance
According to Jae Ellard, a behavioural and mindfulness expert who has written several books on the topic, managing work and home roles do not entirely depend on family-flexible workplace policies but individual accountability. She says the ideal equation is:
Having core values aligned with work
+ sound boundaries
+ managing stress
+ prioritising whats essential to us
= Work-Life Balance
An ideal work-life balance means having greater satisfaction at home and work, but many often fall short of achieving the perfect compromise. While parents rely on support from family-friendly workplace policies, household teamwork and dependable childminders, having mindfulness qualities helps working parents become more effective in their respective roles. A 2011 study reveals that parents with mindfulness traits have better work-family stability, as they report better sleep and vitality.
What Mindfulness Means
As each day gets busier and busier, it’s daunting for some parents to include quiet moments to be in tune with whats happening. Mindfulness keeps us mentally present whether it’s at home or work. You can be running errands, cleaning the cupboard, or doing a report in the office, but still, do each task with as much attentiveness as if you were doing your favourite hobby.
Mindfulness can involve many holistic activities that encourage people to pause and appreciate everything around them. People can try meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or other mindfulness exercises that they can adapt to their lifestyle. It cultivates a mindset of constant intention to process events as they happen. It also teaches people to observe their emotions when they notice positive or negative things that can impact their body.
Having the ability to be mindful gives parents the capacity to reflect on how things cause them to react or feel a certain way. This can mean observing ordinary stuff like how a headache seems to be happening whenever their children talk about problems at school or feeling elated whenever a family member accomplishes something.
There has been an rapidly increasing amount of scientific research into mindfulness meditation and it’s effects on wellbeing in the last decade.
How Busy Parents Can Fit Mindfulness Into Their Day
Here are mindfulness toolkit steps for the workplace that can be adapted to any home environment.
- Start your day with “mindful” breathing exercises.
Pay attention to each breath you take.
- Remember your purpose at home.
Look past the mundane and see the valid reasons for all that you do for your family.
- Be in the present moment as you go about your day.
Put yourself wholly in each task before starting another.
- Take time to focus your awareness on your role as a parent.
This can mean reflecting on how you lead your family or how to be a better example for your kids.
- Practice acceptance when stressful things happen.
This can mean accepting things at present, without overreacting, before planning how to resolve an issue.
- Become aware of distractions and how they affect you.
Identify and observe anything that may negatively affect your body.
- Take mini-breaks to keep your focus on track.
- From time to time, periodically reflect on what your priorities are so that you know where your time and energy are most useful.
- Review events at the close of your workday, so that you can take your mind off work, and be fully present at home.
- Consider “unplugging” from the connected world during work breaks and at home during the weekends.
Leave devices behind to enjoy a walk in the park or to do bonding activities with your family.
- Do mindfulness exercises again before going to bed to clear your mind for sound sleep.
Taking time to appreciate each moment of the day may seem counterproductive to working parents, but mindfulness can help them see whats truly important so that they can focus their energies in the right direction. They can now feel empowered to set boundaries and say no to the things that don’t matter.
Being mindful also helps us see things as they are, without clouding our judgement with emotions. This makes for less stressful problem solving that can promote a more peaceful atmosphere at work and home.
And the best part about practising mindfulness is: having quiet moments that gives parents the ability to relax and appreciate the world around them. They can begin to notice whats good, and this can help them keep going, so that they not only cope, but thrive, in dual roles as parents and workers.
To know more about mindfulness benefits and how it can transform your life, check out more learning resources from the recently concluded “Mindful in May”, a month long campaign spearheaded by mindfulness expert Dr. Elise Bialylew, author of “The Happiness Plan”.