Mental Wellbeing & Stress Reduction

Work has an important role in promoting mental wellbeing.

It is an important determinant of self-esteem and identity. It can provide a sense of fulfilment and opportunities for social interaction.

Work can also have negative effects on mental health particularly in the form of stress.

Mental Wellbeing 

We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. How are you feeling? How well can you cope with day-to-day life? Mental wellbeing is not a straight path - it can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to year and where we work can be a contributing factor to this.   

Good mental wellbeing means you will feel relatively confident in yourself and have positive self-esteem and this will reflect through your emotions and relationships with others. If you are not dealing with your mental wellbeing very well, you might feel stressed, anxious and/or depressed.

Stress

Stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress is different for each of us and can vary depending on social and economic circumstances. Common features of things that can make us feel stressed include experiencing something new or unexpected, or feeling we have a lack of control over a situation.

Stress can be beneficial in short bursts, helping us stay alert and perform at our best. It is very normal for people to feel stress as a demand of work. However, continued or extreme stress at work can be harmful to our mental health. Stress can contribute to the development of anxiety and/or depression and may cause an existing condition to get worse.

As well as affecting our relationships and life outside work, stress can increase our risk of injury, fatigue and burnout.

  • Working long hours / overtime / shift work. Taking regular five-minute breaks can help towards productivity
  • Time pressure, including fast-paced work or working to unrealistic targets
  • Not feeling like you have enough control over how you do your work
  • Not being involved in wider business decisions
  • Not receiving enough support from your line management
  • Job insecurity
  • High mental task demands, work that requires high-level decision-making
  • Not feeling like your role has clarity  
  • Receiving poor communication
  • Conflict with colleagues or managers
  • Poorly managed change, lack of organisational justice
  • Not receiving enough recognition and/or reward
  • Bullying
  • Discrimination – whether based on gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality
  • Work of an emotionally and/or disturbing nature.
  • Chest pain or a pounding heart
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, diarrhoea or constipation
  • Getting colds more often
  • Muscle tension, pains and headaches
  • Episodes of fast, shallow breathing and excessive sweating
  • Loss or change of appetite
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or frustrated
  • Feeling guilty or unhappy
  • Being irritable
  • Excessive worrying
  • Losing confidence and being indecisive
  • Thinking negatively
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Memory problems.

 

Most jobs involve some degree of stress, and this can affect people at all levels within an organisation from frontline employees to senior members of staff. As an employer, there are ways you can help manage and prevent stress by improving conditions and removing the stigma around mental health at work.

A survey by mental health charity Mind revealed that 1 in 10 employees rated their current mental health as poor or very poor. 40% took time off work because of it and over half felt their employer does not support mental health.

Workplace stress can affect an individual’s:

  • Performance
  • Memory
  • Self-Esteem
  • Concentration
  • Ability to learn.

This can reduce productivity, leading to staff under-performing.

In the UK, stress accounts for 75% of sickness absence costing UK businesses an estimated 105 million working days. Poor mental health costs UK employers between £22bn and £42bn each year.

The cost of mental health-related presenteeism (people coming to work when ill) is higher than the cost of absence, estimated at between £17 billion and £26 billion in the UK.

Stress/anxiety/worry is the highest issue for young people in Gloucestershire.

Between 2014 and 2025, Gloucestershire’s adult population will increase by 8.2%, the population aged over 75 years will rapidly increase and there will be fewer people aged between 20 and 24 and between 40 and 54 years.

This could lead to an increase in social isolation, loneliness due to personal bereavement, and a potential increase in mental health issues.

 

What you can do to support mental wellbeing and stress 

There are many techniques which may help you manage stress more effectively. Examples include: taking five-minute breaks from work; going for a short walk during lunch breaks; creating an environment where it is okay to talk about mental wellbeing; and learning how to manage time and commitments.

These techniques will allow employees to:

  • Handle stress and stressful situations
  • Manage thoughts and feelings
  • Deal with emotions more appropriately
  • Focus on success
  • Accept change
  • Feel more in control of situations
  • Look for the opportunity in each challenge
  • Have confidence to move from inertia into action.

 

  • Promote the use of a health app such as Best-You to monitor mood and stress
  • Promote the use of the FREE healthy lifestyles service – Healthy Lifestyles Gloucestershire, which offers free one-to-one coaching for physical activity, healthy eating, smoking and cutting down on alcohol 
  • Display posters from trustworthy sources (e.g. Time to Change) at work.

Best-You is an online platform and app that you and your employees can use as your own personal platform to communicate, create goals and track your progress.

Create a private Group and invite staff to discuss healthy lifestyles within the workplace – activity, eating or anything else that fits your organisation.

Employees can create goals for healthy eating, smoking, alcohol, weight and activity. They can track their progress against their goal each day and Best-You will give motivational feedback.  

Best-You is full of helpful guidance with a specialised area on mood and stress. Employees can complete self-assessments and discuss this with their employer, if appropriate.  

The Healthy Workplaces Gloucestershire accreditation scheme will improve your organisation's culture around mental wellbeing by giving you the opportunity to engage with your employees and offer them support.

Below are some suggestions that may help reduce stress in your workplace:

  • Display resources from trustworthy sources (e.g. Time to Change) around the workplace
  • Have a mental health champion
  • Promote physical activity and healthy eating to improve mental health and wellbeing
  • Provide guidance on mindfulness and activities such as yoga and meditation
  • Line managers being open with employees about whom they can talk to about any issues they might have
  • Have a policy that addresses stress in the workplace
  • Have workflow meetings to allow employees to raise any workload issues they may be having.

 

Resources for Employers 

 

National Resources

  • Every Mind Matters
    From the NHS ‘One You’ resource centre the Every Mind Matters Campaign have developed their resources to support people with their mental wellbeing through coronavirus and beyond. They have created a new ‘mind quiz’ which gives a personalised mind plan for simple steps to look after our mental health and wellbeing.
  • The CIPD, in collaboration with ‘MIND,’ have a developed a Handbook for Managers on mental health in the workplace. There is advice, suggestions and tips on how to have conversations around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace as well as facts and information on mental health.
    They also have a new comprehensive section on Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mental health and Returning to the Workplace
  • The Mental Health Foundation have put together information on Looking after your mental health while working during the coronavirus outbreak
    They also have published a guide on How to Support mental health at work for employers.
  • The Health and Safety Executive HSE offer guidance on Mental health for line managers and a Talking Toolkit on their website. If your company does not yet have one, it is worth developing a stress policy. The Health and Safety Executive offer advice and an example stress policy on their website
  • Time to Change is a growing social movement working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems. There are lots of free workplace resources on their website that can be used to show employees that you are open to talking about mental wellbeing, making them more likely to open up.
  • Mental Health at Work have put together information on Coronavirus and Isolation: supporting yourself and your colleagues.
  • Public Health England Toolkits - In partnership with BITC PHE have produced a series of toolkits to support employers with Health and Wellbeing matters in the workplace. You can download their new Covid-19 Toolkit to support Employee Health and Wellbeing
  • A range of apps are available for helping to improve mental wellbeing and can be found here on the NHS site and at Best-You  

 

Local Resources

  • Gloucestershire County Council have put together a comprehensive guide on their website called Looking After Your Wellbeing. They offer advice on how to follow the ‘5 ways to Wellbeing’ model from ‘Mind’ as well as a comprehensive list of local and national mental health support services.
    It is worth all managers having access to and getting familiar with this information so they are able to signpost staff who may be struggling to the appropriate service.
  • GLOW Gloucestershire Wellbeing – Positive actions for better mental wellbeing. Show your organisation’s commitment to this initiative by declaring your pledge here
  • The Access to Work Mental Health Support Service in Gloucestershireis a free service delivered by Remploy on behalf of Access to Work. Find out more here The Access to Work Mental Health Support Service

 

 

Local & National Training

Local Training

Gloucestershire County Council have developed training resources for professionals and volunteers that include:

  • Mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak – accessible to all, gives an overview of what mental wellbeing is and how it is likely to be affected during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Remote Psychological First Aid – accessible to all but is particularly relevant to NHS and social welfare staff, first responders and co-ordinators of community-led initiatives providing supportive, practical assistance to those people who have been exposed to serious stressors.
  • A conversation guide (or “script”) for supporting people through emotional distress to help those who may be contacting vulnerable people or people in states of emotional distress. It includes guidance on wording, appropriate questions to ask, how to phase your questions, things to be aware of when speaking with someone, the types of support that can be put in place and signposting information
  • Suicide Prevention Training online is also available locally through the Zero Suicide Alliance 
  • Healthy Lifestyles Gloucestershire offers a Mental Health First Aid half-day course that is funded training for charities and public sector organisations. To find out more, please contact HLS on 0800 1223788

National Training

  • Mental Health First Aid Training is now available online with MHFA England
    There are also a large number of private companies offering MHFA training for workplaces - ensure you check that the courses are MHFA England accredited, how it is delivered and the wrap around support that is offered before choosing the best training for your businesses.
  • British Safety Council offer free online courses that include Stress Awareness to help employees identify, manage and reduce their own stress. Start the Conversation is also recommended and aimed at both employers and employees. ‘Start the conversation’ gets people thinking and talking about mental health.
  • NEW for June 2020: Psychological First Aid Training from Public Health England Via Future Learn. This has been specifically designed to support frontline workers during Covid-19. Future Learn - Psychological First Aid for Covid-19