We have come a long way since even the suggestion of a mental health problem was a taboo subject. It would be talked about in hushed tones and the term was taken to mean that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us. We would never judge or perceive physical health problems in the same way, people tend to be far more sympathetic and understanding. Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times but even now, do we prioritise physical fitness and mental fitness in the same way?
If we want to get fit for a sporting fixture, we train, exercise, perhaps go to the gym. We train and practice. We want to be in great physical shape in order to perform well and compete at our best. We want to help our team win. So it should be with our mental health in the workplace.
If we want to perform at our best then from time to time we might need to dedicate time for a little training, help and support.
If we want to perform at our best then from time to time we might need to dedicate time for a little training, help and support. There are so many influencing factors that can drag us down, distract us, and affect our mood – both inside and outside of work. Sometimes this is purely temporary, we all have our bad days after all. But sometimes there can be problems that are more serious. We might not be ill in the clinical sense of the word, but nor are we fit either. Being able to recognise changes in ourselves and others, and understand the underlying causes is key to helping us to get back on top.
When we’re feeling motivated, well-adjusted and positive, we enjoy work more and are well-placed to perform to the best of our abilities. Our self-esteem rises, our output improves and our colleagues benefit. But as with physical fitness, the route to good mental health often isn’t a quick fix, it needs to be understood and maintained with regular monitoring and, if necessary, action.
The HSE report (16 Dec 2021) into work-related stress, depression or anxiety estimated that there were 822,000 workers affected by the conditions in the previous year. That represents 2,480 people per 100,000 workers. It’s not currently a legal requirement to do so, but offering support for the better mental health of employees is definitely recommended. Thankfully, mental health awareness, or fitness, is more widely recognised and in the UK some 60% of organisations have taken some measures to support their employees.
Improving mental fitness across a workforce requires investment, although in practice this is not merely a financial consideration. Expert support programmes should certainly be part of the mix, and delivered in the same way that we support physical health and safety. However, by understanding and embedding mental fitness best practice into management skills and techniques we can help to sharpen the organisation’s evolving culture. This then is also part of the required investment.
Any organisation that can keep awareness of good mental health on the agenda all year round is taking an important active step towards supporting a healthy, happy and motivated workforce. Absenteeism falls, creativity flourishes and performance improves. Devoting a little time to instil understanding and nurture a culture of good mental fitness across an organisation is surely one of the easiest and most impactful steps any leadership team can take.
Further reading and useful support materials: