Tackling Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work

Demonstration of On-Site Massage

I was fortunate to be part of the Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace event run by Surrey Chambers this month, providing taster On-Site Massages in the Partner Village alongside other exhibitors – all offering professional advice in various aspects of Health and Wellbeing at Work.

With an impressive line-up of speakers, presenting at the event, I wanted to share with you some of the key messages from them on raising mental health awareness in the workplace.

Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Adviser on employment Relations – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) represents the CIPD on key advisory groups such as the Stevenson-Farmer review of mental health and employers, and the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing programme. Rachel reported that:

  • The number of Mental Health cases at work has risen – but this could be due to the increase in awareness and people speaking out at work
  • Stress is a major contributory factor to mental ill-health
  • The main causes of stress–related absences were cited as workload, management, and outside work issues.

Rachel stated the key issue in helping to identify mental health issues, and increasing awareness, is training and supporting line managers. She suggested introducing core standards such as producing a plan to work towards developing mental health awareness; encouraging conversations on mental health issues; and proving good working conditions.

Geoff McDonald – Consultant and Former Global VP for Unilever HR Marketing – gave a moving speech about his personal experience of anxiety-fuelled, work-related depression, and how he is championing the cause for mental health awareness in the workplace. His ambition is for everyone, in every workplace, to know they have the choice to speak out and to ask for help with mental health issues.   Physical ill health is much more widely accepted in society and the workplace, whilst emotional and mental ill-health issues have a long way to catch up.

Jane Nathan is Director of Healthcare on Demand and has a background in Clinical Research. Jane highlighted how today’s digital world, whilst having many great technological advantages, has increased at such a speed that we as humans haven’t the evolutionary ability to change and respond appropriately to this development without some negative impact on our wellbeing. With digital overload we are constantly drawn to our phones and laptops checking for messages, emails, social media etc. leading to digital addiction. Employers are now realising the need to manage expectations and set standards for personal digital use in the workplace. Responsibility also lies in us as individuals to manage our digital usage – and there are some easy steps to put into practice such as removing digital devices from the bedroom, and avoiding screens an hour before bedtime to ensure a better quality of sleep to promote wellbeing.

Clive Stone is CEO of Oakleaf Enterprise in Guildford and Mental Health Ambassador for the Institute of Directors. Oakleaf is a charity supporting people with Mental Health issues. Clive is passionate about helping people recognise they have choice, and the impact this can have on their mental health. He supports employers with mental health awareness training and regularly gives talks on mental health in the workplace.

Gary Evans established Holistic Healing Therapies (HHT) in 2016 with Olga Terebenina which combines Mindfulness, Yoga, and Sound and Nature therapy. HHT runs outdoor wellbeing events to promote wellbeing in our working lives through relaxation and stress-relief. HHT approach is to reduce the ‘fight and flight’ state brought on by constantly being stressed throughout our day by encouraging our bodies to enter a ‘rest and digest’ state supported by the parasympathetic nervous system.  It was cetainly inspiring to hear the uplifting feedback from participants after spending a few hours soaking up the fresh air amongst our green forests and foliage.

Rosemary Hedgecock – HR Manager at Alliotts and a HR Consultant – is an advocate for positive mental health awareness in the workplace. Rosemary appreciates the challenges that employers face in implementing a culture shift towards a mentally healthy working environment and she shared some valuable insight into the procedures Alliotts have put in place to achieve this.

Gaynor Arnold set up TurnFit after spending 17 dedicated years in the City working long hours, with a poor work-life balance. TurnFit’s positive approach to wellbeing is to promote an active lifestyle for mental, physical and emotional wellbeing that regular exercise brings to us all. TurnFit attracts business, families, the unemployed and the homeless.

It was encouraging to learn how these influential speakers are promoting and contributing to Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace. The event was sponsored by Alliotts and Guildford County Council. Sarah Butcher, Senior Membership Manager at Surrey Chambers, and Nick White GEEYOU Director did a great job hosting this event during Mental Health Awareness week. Look out for similar events in the future, in which I also hope to take part by demonstrating the On-Site Massage.