Wellbeing in the Workplace - a Fresh Air Fridays perspective

On World Mental Health Day, we are thinking about wellbeing in the workplace and how easy or tricky it is to talk about mental health issues at work.

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I am an advocate of working. I think work is great for us. 

Well, to be more specific, GOOD work is great for us. Good work is when our role is clear, our tasks are manageable and match our skill levels, where there is sufficient training and support, and the environment is healthy. Good work brings us positive wellbeing, a purpose, further identity, new relationships, a nice place to go to, challenges and opportunities. 

Working is a two-way street of course. Unless self-employed, it involves an agreement between ourselves and an employer and is often both written and assumed. I have yet to see in any of my contracts “I will look out for you” but I expect this from my employer in exchange for my presence, willingness, concentration and endeavours. Who wouldn’t? I mean, look how much time, care and attention goes into the other crucial elements of a business, organisation or department. Repairs, maintenance and cleaning of premises. Machinery, computers and other equipment - dare I say ‘photocopier’… I could go on. 

How’s the photocopier? How’s me!?

So what happens when an employee experiences a problem which affects their ability to arrive at work or, increasingly, arrive at work yet not really be there? Not fully present and no loud ‘yes, Miss’ in response to my imaginary register. 

For most scenarios there will be an established and agreed process and both you and your manager will know what to do. Or know where to go to find out. I’m thinking anything from over-sleeping and a broken-down car to a sickness bug, broken arm, sick child, sick parent, sick dog, musculoskeletal disorders, bereavement and injuries in the workplace.  Apart from the latter, where first aid skills and the accident book are swiftly re-discovered, I know I have to ring in. Explain the situation and discuss what’s next: ‘sorry I’ll be late’, ‘I need to take a few sick days’ or look at other options such as annual leave, carers’ leave, compassionate leave, perhaps reduced hours  – you know the drill. 

Spanner in the works

There’s a bit of a spanner in the works though, if we’re honest, when it comes to stress, depression and anxiety. I wonder how many people reading this would agree with the following statement:

“I could easily let my manager know about an arising mental health issue”

How easy would you find it? How did you come to your response on this? If you are a manager, how easily do you respond to calls about a mental health issue? Or perhaps conversations during 1-1 meetings? Take a moment…..

I imagine there’s a whole host of reasons, thoughts and feelings as to where conversations about a mental health issue sit on your ‘Easy to Difficult’ spectrum. And congratulations! Because wherever you are, it’s a win-win. 

Congrats if you’re at ease, people around you would love to know what’s working for you because most people tend towards ‘Difficult’. And, if you’re in the majority camp, congratulations too! 

Identifying the reasons, thoughts and feelings for this is the first step in overcoming them. So, today’s invitation on World Mental Health Day is to take a look at what needs changing and what you can influence. What needs to change (which may include something in relation to ourselves of course) in order for you to have easier conversations on stress, depression and anxiety? Whether you’re an employee, manager or both. 

Then choose the first step and go take it. You have the power, you know you have the right and you also know the difference it will make. Good Luck!  

Melanie Faulks

Work Psychologist, Life Coach and #FreshAirFridays Facilitator

Saranne Postans

Fresh Air Fridays

We take people outside and teach simple tools and techniques to support their wellbeing - helping them to live their best life.