An old proverb states that ‘health is wealth’. For you and I, our health is our most precious asset – it allows us to pursue the passions that drive us and provide for those that love us.
As people have become increasingly aware of taking active steps to look after their mind as well as their body, ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ have become the new watchwords of this revolution in mental health.
Despite this, businesses have long neglected wellness in the workplace, much to their detriment. Decreased work efficiency associated with mental heath problems costs UK businesses £15.1 billion a year, and stress affects one in five of the UK’s working population.
A healthy workplace is a happy workplace. Healthy workplaces lead to an increase in productivity and performance, improved employee morale and reduced absenteeism.
Businesses are starting to respond to this trend. Recently I spoke at a Wellness Seminar hosted by The Northbank BID, London’s largest business improvement district. The BID works to provide value to its member companies, and has recognized that promoting wellness is significant for employers.
At the event, a group of wellness specialists, including myself, offered four ways that employers can create a healthier and more productive working environment.
Four steps towards a healthy workplace
- Look within your business to see what is happening
Mental health cases are invisible to the naked eye. At any one time, 1 in 6 adults will be experiencing a mental health condition. When we consider that only 1 in 4 of those mental health cases are actually reported, then there are millions of workers suffering in silence.
Businesses must be aware of the impact of mental health and the idea that employees may be concealing issues if they feel they are unable to discuss mental health and wellbeing at work.
2. Adopt NICE guidelines
The guidelines produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provide an excellent basis for any business looking to improve their approach to mental health.
They range from adopting flexible working arrangements to taking a strategic and coordinated approach to promoting employees’ mental wellbeing.
Businesses can, for example, make small changes to processes for training, development and appraisal in order to promote mental wellbeing. Line managers should promote a management style that encourages constructive feedback and should seek to foster an awareness and understanding of mental health.
3. Music can be more powerful than imagined
Music’s impact on wellbeing is truly amazing. Scientific research has shown that listening to music releases dopamine, the feel good chemical in your brain. It can also elevate your mood, alleviate stress, relieve symptoms of depression and improve cognitive performance.
Incorporating music into the workplace is therefore a simple and easy way to boost spirits and improve employees’ mental health. Not only that, but it fosters creativity amongst employees.
Of course, in open-plan offices, it may be harder to introduce music into the office, and it can be difficult to find the right balance between enjoying music and disturbing people. However, allowing headphone use in the office can provide employees with a straightforward solution to the problem and allow employees access to the health benefits of music.
4. Encourage employees to practice mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness is the process of paying more attention to the present and being aware of your own thoughts, feelings and the world around you.
Practicing a state of mindfulness can help people enjoy the world around them more and understand themselves better, as it encourages people not to get caught up in their own thoughts. Mindfulness helps combat anxiety and stress and can increase focus on the things that truly matter.
Through these four steps, businesses can attune themselves to the wellbeing of their employees’ and create a virtuous circle where an open and healthy environment in which to work creates tangible rewards for the employer.
By Shelina Prabatani, Healthy Business Advisor for London Healthy Workplace Charter