Mental Wellbeing & Stress Reduction

Gloucestershire County Council and partners recognise the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak will have on mental health and emotional wellbeing both in the short and long-term.

Since this pandemic took hold the Healthy Workplace team have been working with our Partners at Gloucestershire County Council Mental Health Cell to establish a ‘Local Innovation Resources Hub’ which hosts local resources and example documents developed and used by our key partners to support mental wellbeing and resilience in some of the most challenging circumstances.

 

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.

 

 

 

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 

 

COVID -19 Mental Wellbeing - Local Innovation Resource Hub

Gloucestershire County Council and partners recognise the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak will have on mental health and emotional wellbeing both in the short and longer-term. Uncertainty, concerns over health and economic security, bereavement, the pace of social change and the impact of self-isolation and social distancing will all be contributory factors.

Our local workforce may experience increasing risk factors for poor mental wellbeing.  This may be due to unpredictable/unplanned changes that have taken place within the workplace, loss of employment, uncertainty of income, changing demands/roles/teams, increase in pressure and sensitivity of roles performed (i.e. where in health care settings more individuals become vulnerable and require enhanced care), working in ‘frontline’ environments and increasing personal/familial exposure to the Covid-19 virus, as well as other factors.

To respond to this identified need, a ‘Workforce Wellbeing’ task group has been established who have collated / designed the following resources and documents to help employers protect the mental wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of their workforce.

RESOURCE HUB 

1. Covid-19 Risk Assessments

Our essential front-line services have put together risk assessments that could be useful examples to help any employer with staff in public facing roles.

Research shows that BAME groups have been disproportionately affected by the impact of Covid -19. These documents may help employers to better understand the impact on this group and what can be done to support.

  • Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups. Public Health England, June 2020

Further guidance from the HSE on what to include in you Covid -19 risk assessment can be accessed here

2. Guidance for Leaders and Managers 

Please see a selection of guidance documents below designed to help employers understand the mental wellbeing needs and offer support to front line workers during this pandemic.

You can find further guidance and information from the BPS here including addressing anxiety in the return to work and advice to support staff who have been shielding.

  • Advice for sustaining staff wellbeing in critical care during and beyond Covid-19

3. Advice for supporting a remote workforce

4. Sample leaflets and posters 

Please see below a selection of leaflets and posters that have been created by our public service workforce to remind their employees of the workplace support packages on offer.

5. Your Local Guide to Mental Health Support Services

Gloucestershire County Council have put together a comprehensive ‘Looking After Your Wellbeing’ guide on their website.

They offer advice on how to follow the ‘5 ways to Wellbeing’ model from ‘Mind’ as well as a full list of local and national mental health support services that can be accessed here

The information is tiered for ease of use from ‘Crisis Support’ to ‘Self-care tools to look after your emotional wellbeing.’ It is worth all managers having access to and being familiar with this information to signpost staff who may benefit from further support.

6. Every Mind Matters

Every Mind Matters is now tailored to support people through social distancing and home isolation, including working from home. Find guidance, advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing if you need to stay at home or are worried and anxious about the outbreak

7. Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Support

Developing a Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Policy – Advice for Employers

Hestia have recently launched a new helpline for employers and business to support them in responding effectively to a disclosure of domestic abuse from an employee or looking for other advice and guidance around supporting employees affected by domestic abuse.

  • Advice Line 07770480437 or email Adviceline.EB@hestia.org between 10am-3pm Monday to Friday for support.
  • Further details of the advice line and toolkit can be found here. 
  • For guidance for front line services in Gloucestershire click here