Supporting mental health in the workplace

September 18, 2019

Employees suffering from mental health problems may struggle to complete their daily activities, or be experiencing distressing feelings during their everyday lives. As an employer, you can benefit from supporting these employees and instating a plan that will help them to overcome and fight off the related diseases. Fitness is an excellent way to help improve mental health, and offering a way to access facilities and ongoing programs easily should be a consideration for every business.

What is mental health?

When we say mental health, we’re talking about the psychological and emotional wellbeing of someone. A positive mental state of mind is just as important as staying fit. Although the two are separate, they go hand in hand in ensuring we remain healthy throughout life.

Mental health conditions are being given more and more attention, and for a good reason; more cases of adverse mental health are being reported year on year*. Here are some examples of the most common mental health conditions:

  1. Depression - can be short or long term, and while it is hard to capture the feeling of depression, it is considered a feeling of ‘low’ or ‘blue’, sometimes in reaction to a life event, but also it can occur without cause.
  2. Anxiety - often described as fear or worry of things that interfere with normal living. Anxiety can affect someone’s ability to complete daily activities.
  3. ADHD - difficulty focusing on tasks, being easily distracted and impulsions or feelings of restlessness.
  4. Eating disorders - come in many different forms, but all revolve around an unhealthy obsession with food that affects someone’s health.
  5. Substance abuse - the consumption of drugs in a manner that leads to negative health consequences.

Why mental health is an important focus

Mental health has become a common discussion point within the UK, with reported cases on the rise. However, it may be the case that mental health simply didn’t receive as much attention as it did before. Either way, the effect of mental health is prominent; it can lead to extremely negative consequences to individuals’ lives, much the same as physical conditions. Here are some key figures concerning the state of mental health in the UK:

  1. 1 in 4 adults will experience adverse mental health within their lifetime.
  2. Mental health often starts in the teenage years and can continue into adult life.
  3. 75% of young mental health suffers aren’t being treated.
  4. A third of adults with self-diagnosed mental health issues have never visited a related health professional.
  5. Workers experience negative mental issues took 72 million working days out of work, costing £34.9billion each year.
  6. Long-term mental health sufferers are twice as likely to lose their job in comparison to colleagues without experiencing these issues, resulting in around 300,00 job losses per year.
  7. 16.66% of employees will be experiencing mental health issues at any given time
  8. Employees with mental health issues cost their employer, on average, £1,300 per year when inadequate support is offered.

Women at work around desk and computer smiling

Affect of mental health at work

Mental health problems affect everyday activities, and this can be particularly apparent when a sufferer is trying to complete the tasks of their job.  Anyone with mental health issues may carry their symptoms into their line of work. Unlike physical issues that may not flare up during working life, mental illness is a battle that takes place constantly. Below are some specific problems that may cause an issue for an employee if they are actively suffering from mental health:

  1. An inability to concentrate on tasks, meaning that jobs may take longer to do, or won’t be completed to the standard they would otherwise perform them.
  2. Symptoms of anxiety can cause employees to worry about many aspects of their job. This can lead to feelings of extreme guilt if they do not perform how they think they should, resulting in low morale and a loss in confidence.
  3. Changes in mood can cause employees to react negatively or lose enthusiasm in an instant.
  4. Withdrawal from activities, such as work socials or group activities can lead them to distance themselves from the workforce and feeling alienated.
  5. A significant feeling of tiredness, lack of energy and sleeping problems can lead to an employee lacking the ability to complete their activities.
  6. Substance abuse may lead to secrecy, financial difficulty and employees turning up to work intoxicated.
  7. The inability to handle daily stress and problems encountered at work can negatively affect an employees motivation or ability to attend work.
Smiling man in office with people working in the background

Supporting mental health in the workplace

Aside from the medicine that is available to treat sufferers of mental health, other actions can help to offset the illness. As an employer, you cannot control whether your employees seek help. But, you can offer support services and provide the means that will help them. Here are five ways to help your workforce:

  1. Instate a member of staff, such as a councillor, who is trained to support anyone suffering from mental health.
  2. Consider changes to the business operations, such as work from home days, that can help to combat some of the triggers of mental health.
  3. If you see someone suffering, work with them to understand the cause of this and how you can adapt their working life to help them.
  4. Create an effective return-to-work plan that focuses on improving the role for that individual, ensuring that no added pressure is given because they’ve taken time off for mental health. Working together is an important aspect to ensure both the employee and employer are getting what they need out of the working relationship.
  5. Physical activity has been shown to help in these situations, and you can offer an on-site gym and accompanying fitness programs explicitly designed to combat mental health issues.

Fitness and mental health - what’s the correlation?

Exercise is a fantastic way to combat the symptoms of mental health. It can be a great way for sufferers to relieve their feelings of anxiety or depression, as well as a great way to stop the onset of mental illness in the first place. Small amounts of exercise have been shown to treat moderate depression, and a simple 15 minute run per day can reduce the likelihood of developing this disease by 26%.

Why does this happen? When we exercise, a lot is going on inside our body and brain. Physical activity helps to increase the blood flow to the brain, supporting healthy growth and releasing endorphins that help us feel good about ourselves. Fitness activities relieve feelings of tension, stress and anxiety, all the while enhancing our sense of wellbeing. In short, exercise combats many of the symptoms directly correlated to mental illnesses.

Sufferers of mental health will often feel exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed, which can make it difficult to begin exercising in the first place. However, physical activity has been shown to boost energy levels, increase motivation and mood, meaning that it’s just a case of getting started. As an employer, you should understand that this may be a hurdle to overcome with your employees. By making fitness accessible for them and inclusive to their working life, you’re able to directly influence your workforce and help to combat mental health problems.

Woman in office gym with skipping rope working out

The Reinvent Lifestyle Solution

We have experience in designing and installing workplace gyms as well as aftercare support to ensure your staff are engaging in physical activity. Offering on-site fitness is a great way to help your staff begin their fitness journey, and our ongoing management solution is perfect for keeping them engaged and motivated. It’s important that your workforce feel like they’re being guided on fitness activities; it increases the likelihood of continuing their training, and thus will be more beneficial to combat the symptoms of mental health.

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