Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place this week until 16th May 2021. The theme this year is ‘Nature’.
Supporting employee mental health has become a key focus for all employers. It is estimated that one in six people at work are experiencing common mental health problems and the overall cost of poor mental health to the economy is between £74bn and £99bn, according to an independent review carried out on behalf of the government.
Covid-related stress is likely to impact these numbers even further as the uncertainty and anxiety of the past year continue to take their toll in ways that we are still only beginning to understand. The simplicity then, of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme – Nature – makes for a welcome reminder that connecting with ourselves in the outdoors offers a simple and effective way to reboot our mind and body, to calm our thoughts and to refuel our energy.
During the pandemic and national lockdowns, I became one of the millions who rediscovered nature and the enjoyment of being around it. Whether this was forced on me by the restrictions or not, I believe it supported my mental health during this extremely stressful and anxious time. Research undertaken by the MHF showed going for walks outside was one of the top coping strategies during the pandemic and 45% of people reported that being outside in green spaces had been vital for their mental health.
According to the MHF, websites showing wildlife footage on webcams saw hits increase by over 2000%. Wider studies have also found that during lockdowns, people not only spent more time in nature but were noticing it more.
I have always enjoyed walking in my personal time, I love the fresh air and saw it as good exercise. With a 4-year-old in lockdown, it was also essential that we got out of the house before we all went stir crazy! Now I view walking in nature as an opportunity for self-care, relaxation and time out. Normally I would have paid for a spa day to feel these benefits.
I hope I do not lose the motivation to down tools when I can during my busy working week to go for a walk. I would strongly encourage everyone to take the time to go back to basics and enjoy a walk in nature, you may not think you need it, but afterwards you will be glad you did.
How to support employee mental health at work
There are lots of ways employers can encourage and support better employee mental health, particularly as lockdown eases and businesses prepare for their staff to return to the workplace. Many people will have their own personal experience of the challenges faced during the pandemic and their individual concerns as restrictions begin to ease. Employers are encouraged to help their teams back to work and provide the necessary support as they make this transition.
Line Managers should be encouraging their teams to take vital breaks throughout the day. Short breaks and regular movement help to refocus the mind and will promote better employee engagement and productivity.
Employers should also promote a culture of open conversation to help recognise and support signs of stress in employees. Consider offering staff members training to encourage positive mental health in themselves and others.
At PSHR, two members of our team have recently passed a Mental Health First Aid qualification. If you would like some information on this or advice on how to help employees who may need some care and attention, please get in touch.
PSHR can help you with providing 1-2-1 templates, Mental Health and Home Working policies as well as training for your line managers to enable them to deal with the changing workforce they are required to lead. Contact us today on 01473 653000.