In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on everyone’s lives, and we’ve seen a huge shift in the ways that people live and work.
With burnout and job losses prevalent across the country, as a result, there has been an understandable knock-on effect when it comes to people’s mental health.
According to a survey conducted in mid-June by the Mental Health Foundation, one in five adults still had feelings of hopelessness as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
Even before the pandemic, 70 million workdays were being lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK.
Mental health and the future of the workplace
As more businesses start to return to their offices, employers need to consider how the working environment can support staff and improve their mental health.
As the future of the workplace faces ever-changing uncertainty, we’ve asked Nicola Bartley, a mental wellbeing expert from Fusion Occupational Health to share her expertise in managing the mental health of employees.
Here are Nicola’s top 5 ways your business can help to improve the mental health of your workforce.
1. A supportive environment
Employers should create an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about mental health.
Mental health awareness training and appointing mental health champions can improve this.
By educating your workforce, businesses can improve the understanding of mental health and create a supportive environment for staff.
2. Encourage early intervention
Businesses should explore strategies that raise the awareness of mental health issues and empower people with the ability to support those who might be struggling.
One tactic is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). This specifically teaches people how to help someone experiencing mental health problems.
The focus here is ensuring that there is early intervention.
If staff can recognise the signs of mental health issues earlier, they can provide help and support.
3. Mental Health Days
In the US, more and more companies are offering their employees something called a mental health day.
The concept allows employees to take a day off work for reasons other than a physical illness.
These mental health days normalise the idea of someone taking a day off to do something positive for their emotional wellbeing.
4. A workplace based on wellbeing
Businesses also need to factor wellbeing into the design and layout of their workplace.
This can involve featuring more artwork in the workplace, introducing more natural light and natural design elements, such as indoor plants and living walls or using tactile surfaces like wood and stone.
Plants are effective in helping to reduce toxins and viruses in an enclosed space, whilst also regulating the temperature.
When plants are brought into an office, they are also a great way of positively improving our wellbeing, mental health and to reduce cases of depression.
Findings have even shown that workplace productivity can increase by 15% when plants are incorporated into an office design.
5. Allowing flexibility
With so many people working from home, it’s hardly surprising that recent research found that nearly three-quarters of business leaders are now planning to adopt flexible and agile working.
While the pandemic and national lockdown in the UK resulted in more people working from home, many of whom still are, human interaction is still vital.
Face-to-face meetings will still be important, albeit with social distancing measures in place.
The rumours about the death of the office are definitely premature.
The workplace just needs to become more flexible, allowing employees to access areas for contemplation and relaxation. Whilst also giving them the option to work from home if they want to.
The “new normal” that we are now facing in the workplace is going to take a lot of adaptation for both employers and employees.
But with some simple adjustments, businesses can ensure that their workplace can both support and improve the mental health of the people that work there.
To find out more about how office plants can enhance the wellbeing of your workplace, contact us today.