Posted: 12th January 2022
Construction is one of the few industries that hasn’t paused throughout the pandemic. And, while mental health has always been important, most of us have realised just how vital it is over the last year.
As we’ve returned to something that resembles the pre-pandemic way of life, we’ve quickly been reminded that it was never really that normal at all. In fact, it was a hotbed for anxiety, burnout and depression.
Mental illness affects our ability to think clearly, it makes us emotionally volatile, robs us of the willpower to complete tasks, stops us from performing at our best and lowers our experience and quality of life. At its most extreme it can lead to suicide.
At Blacktip, we do everything we can to look after our team’s mental wellbeing. Just we would never dream of having people work in an environment that puts their physical health at risk, the same is true of their mental health.
However, mental illness still carries a stigma that makes people reluctant to talk openly for fear of discrimination, job loss or missed opportunities. That’s building the right culture is essential to wellbeing.
The £2.4 billion cost of mental illness
Many well-meaning business owners still perceive prioritising mental health as an expense. A necessary one, but still an expense. Few realise that it’s also good for business.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, mental health is the leading cause of sickness absence. A staggering 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.
And it’s not just absence. People who turn up to work with a mental illness will likely underperform, adding further cost to their employers.
So it makes economic sense to look after the mental health of your employees. Healthy people do not come at the expense of healthy profit margins.
A mental health issue isn’t the same as a bad day at the office
We’ve all had to drag ourselves into work when we’re simply not in the mood. And we’ve all had bad days at the office. But there’s a big difference between those feelings and a mental health issue.
Anyone who has suffered through a depressive episode, an anxiety attack or burnout — even on a minor level — knows there’s a clear difference between those feelings and a bad day at the office.
Pressuring people to push through those sorts of things will do more harm than good. What people need at that moment is rest. In fact, the spiritual teacher Jeff Foster notes:
“The word ‘depressed is spoken phonetically as ‘deep rest’. There is no shame in depression. It is an ancient invitation to rest.”
Trust that your team know the difference between an off day and a mental health issue. And if you see someone who looks on the brink of burnout, anxious or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re ok.
Leaders must share first
The Mental Health Foundation also discovered that 38% of Britons fear revealing a mental health problem at work would jeopardise their career.
This study highlights the need to make open and honest conversation part of the company culture.
There’s a conundrum here because people aren’t going to speak up until they feel safe to do so. But they won’t feel safe until there is a culture of open and honest conversation.
This is why it’s essential that people in leadership roles speak first. If leaders make mental health part of the conversation at work, they demonstrate to everyone else that it’s safe to speak. And that’s how to change the culture.
Some quick wins for mental wellbeing at work:
Books the size of small villages could be written about mental wellbeing in the workplace. We’ll leave that to the experts. But here are a few quick wins for less stress and better mental health.
Go for a walk
Exercise is one of the best antidotes to stress. However, you don’t have to run a marathon or lift weights until your nose bleeds to feel the mental benefit of exercising. You simply have to move. A 15 minute walk will clear your mind, get your blood moving and lift your mood.
Take your eyes off the screen
We can easily spend our entire day looking at a screen. Even on our lunch break, our eyes switch effortlessly from our computer screen to our phone screen. Make a conscious effort to step back and take time away from the screen. Your mind will thank you for the rest.
Meditation is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’ve tried meditating in the past and found it too difficult, try putting a timer on your phone for ten minutes, closing your eyes and counting your breaths. This is a great way to de-stress during your lunch break (especially if you’re working from home).
Talk to people
Humans are social creatures, we’re wired for social interaction. That means you too, introverts! If you’re feeling stressed or depressed make an effort to talk to someone. You don’t have to talk about the thing that’s bothering you if you don’t want to. Just shoot the breeze for a few minutes about the weather or whatever comes to mind. You’re almost guaranteed to feel better for it.
Change the way you breathe
The way you breathe can have a profound impact on your mood and stress levels. In this cool one minute video Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, shares a surprisingly simple breathing technique that dramatically reduces stress and anxiety.