Mental Health Awareness Week: 5 ways to create a happier workplace

Mental Health Awareness Week will take place next week, from the 13th to 19th May. Do you prioritise the mental well-being of your team?

Mental health continues to be a hot topic of discussion, with celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds and Justin Bieber speaking out about their own battles with issues such as anxiety and depression. A number of high-profile initiatives have been launched to raise awareness of mental health, including the Heads Together campaign backed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. While this targets young people, mental health issues can strike at any age and may be triggered by a wide range of events, from relationship stress and financial worries to loneliness and body image concerns.

But why should businesses be concerned with the mental well-being of their staff? Work takes up a significant part of our daily lives, so it’s vital to ensure your workplace is a positive environment where employees feel valued. Happy employees are more productive and motivated and will strive to achieve both personal and business success. In fact, addressing the issues of mental health can improve productivity by as much as 12%. If team morale drops or individuals appear to be struggling, use Mental Health Awareness week as an opportunity to approach the topic of mental well-being. Workplace culture and attitudes will not change overnight, but there are some steps you can take to set you on the path to creating a healthier and happier workplace.

1. Set up a system of praise and recognition

Recognising the work of your team members and celebrating achievements through praise is essential for building a strong team and a positive work environment. For most of us, appreciation is a fundamental need. It makes us feel good because it is confirmation that our work and efforts are appreciated. Feeling valued in a company raises our motivation levels and dedication, resulting in higher levels of productivity and improved standards of work.

A 2018 report by Gallup reported that the quality of team management in conjunction with the adoption of a workplace culture that routinely recognises accomplishments can significantly influence team member engagement. This is, however, determined by the quality of praise and recognition. Be present, consistent and genuine and adopt a mix of formal, (such as “Employee of the Month” schemes) and informal (verbal comments) praise. Employees want to feel valued, but if they believe that praise given is insincere or conducted as a tick-box exercise, any benefits the praise may have delivered in terms of employee morale and performance will be lost.

2. Invest in team-building activities

The demands of a typical Monday to Friday job can feel autonomous. Some may even find this routine extremely restrictive and repetitive. If staff morale needs a boost, team-building activities can provide a much-needed break from the daily grind. From short lunch-time activities to out-of-office activity days, the benefits to employee morale can make these activities a great investment. The purpose of these activities is to build trust, encourage new working relationships and instil a culture of effective team working. Businesses rarely succeed when individuals and departments work in silos.

Collaboration between colleagues with varied skills, knowledge and approaches encourages the formation of new ideas, challenges old thinking and delivers more impressive outcomes. This leads to a more positive working environment for everyone. While the short-term investment of time and money in team-building activities may seem a little daunting, the long-term benefits to employee well-being and team productivity often make it extremely worthwhile.

Another great option to boost team morale and encourage the development of positive working relationships is corporate group retreats. Not only can you choose a programme with activities that allow you to meet your goals, but company retreats are also often held in exclusive destinations boasting invigorating and relaxing natural settings. There are countless accommodation styles to choose from, including eco-sustainable tree houses and traditional courthouses, so it’s easy to find the perfect retreat for your team. Allow your staff the space to unleash their creativity and develop new ideas on a team mini-break. Choose a sustainable mini-break for extra CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) points!

3. Prioritise work-life balance

Disconnecting from work and not letting work-related stress bleed into our personal lives is tricky. Due to rapid technological advances in recent decades, we have constant access to work — it just takes a single tap. This makes it much harder to achieve a work-life balance. Working long hours without adequate periods of rest can have negative long-term effects on mental (and physical) health, hampering productivity and overall work-life satisfaction.

Senior staff have a responsibility to care for the well-being of their teams. Make sure you emphasise the importance of taking regular breaks during the working day. Send out a clear message that working without breaks is not in the best interests of the company. Also consider allowing flexible working arrangements so that your employees can effectively balance their work and personal lives with less stress — just make sure they know that when they’re not working, they shouldn’t be checking their emails!

4. Trust your employees – Don’t micromanage!

Constantly being critiqued over tiny details and mistakes can seriously impact staff morale, and not in a good way. If you fail to trust your employees to do their jobs as they see fit, they are likely to lose respect for you and the business as a whole. Remember why you hired this particular individual. They are qualified and experienced for the position, so let go of the reigns and let them do the job they are paid to do.

Yes, mistakes can happen, but mistakes also help us learn. Everyone wants to be successful. By allowing your employees to take ownership of their projects, they can also glory in their successes. This trust and sense of achievement will boost an individual’s happiness and sense of fulfilment at work. People enjoy having the opportunity to prove themselves, develop, grow and be challenged. If they are micromanaged, work becomes a mundane and thankless task.

5. Listen to your employees

Listen to the opinions of your team. They want to feel respected and valued in your company. Listen to their feedback and use it to implement positive changes in areas employees care about. No matter how good intentions are, if the senior management team decides to invest in a games room to boost morale but nobody actually uses it, it’s time and money wasted. Ask people what they’d like to see change. Maybe they’d trade games for a new coffee machine and a comfortable sofa. When employees realise that their opinions are heard and relevant actions are taken, they will be more loyal to your company, which also boosts your reputation — you look after their staff! This will set you apart from competitors and allow you to attract high-quality staff as well as retain the experienced employees you already have. Remember, a happier workplace means a more successful company!

Start boosting workplace happiness today!

Change takes time, but it has to begin somewhere. From a group retreat in an idyllic destination to driving cultural change, every investment, no matter how large or small, can deliver a positive return if it is implemented with care and consideration. Without a workforce, there is no company. If your employees are happy, they will be more productive and less likely to move on to pastures new, while you’ll benefit from a fantastic reputation. Get your team together this Mental Health Awareness Week and start working towards a healthier and happier workplace.