According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly three million Australians live with depression and anxiety – affecting their wellbeing, personal relationships, career and productivity. As a past sufferer, and the CEO of Bloom College, I believe we need to proactively deal with the problem of stress in the workplace rather than avoid it and simply hope the issue will fix itself.
We need to allow sufferers to share their pain and ask for help. Hopefully, this will result in them feeling happier in their lives, which will naturally spill over into their work productivity.
Let’s discuss how employers can identify stress related symptoms in their employees and provide unusual and creative methods of team building which can help alleviate the suffering.
Acknowledge the signs
Anxiety is oftentimes a precursor to depression. In this regard, it can be used positively as an early warning sign. Once it comes up, it’s essential to check in and dive deep to uncover what’s under the surface of it. Essentially, it can be helpful in letting you know when you’re starting to steer off course.
Employees can be taught to identify the signs and act accordingly. Implement a strategy where they can feel at ease calling a meeting or simply checking in with their team leader to let them know what’s going on and ask for help to identify why. Follow up the conversation with your employee later and see where changes can be made to their work environment to improve their situation.
Are they in the right job?
Lack of fulfillment breeds anxiety so ensure your employees are well-aligned to their roles. Their values need to match up with the tasks they are set. For example, if an employee holds variety as one of their highest personal needs they will be forever dissatisfied in a role that requires the same tasks be performed day in and day out. Keep in mind that sometimes a person is perfectly suited to the business but not the role.
Create a healthy environment
Here are eight things you can do to create a mentally healthy workplace environment:
- Ask staff to check emails at specific times of the day, not as they arrive in the inbox, and get them to switch off notifications. Not knowing what may arrive at any given time leads to an anxious state and lowers productivity. Your inbox should not act as a to-do list which takes you off task and into the tasks of others.
- Make a top three list rather than a to-do list. A top three list is a list of key tasks to achieve that day. The items on the list must reflect the goals of the role in your business and must be clear and achievable. For example, they shouldn’t be the title of a project but rather an item within a project.
- Create a ‘no reading emails after hours’ policy. Home time is designated for home, friends and family! Thirty years ago clients could not connect with employees after hours.
- Lack of natural sunlight is having a large impact on employees. Sunlight hitting the retina of the eyes is required to produce serotonin, and low serotonin levels is linked to depression. Keep blinds open and encourage outdoor breaks.
- Designated break time should be sacred and ideally taken outside. Fresh air and exposure to the sun helps rejuvenate the mind. It can be particularly helpful in the winter months when the days are shorter and you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark.
- Allow for privacy as certain personality types crave alone time. Many workplaces are open plan these days, but if space allows for it offer a relaxation spot or time out zone.
- Offer fresh fruit, organic if possible! Remove any chocolate or refined sugar sweets that can increase mood disorders. The science behind good gut health and mental health is overwhelming and I can personally attest to it.
- Offer tasks that include contribution. For example, NAB offer a program to their staff where they can have two days per year paid working for a not-for-profit. You might like to offer help to your local community. Get your staff onboard to help you choose a charity that will align with them and your clients.
The secret to living is giving. When we are focused on others it’s almost impossible to feel anxious or depressed. In the workplace, providing tangible, accessible and therapeutic ways of dealing with employee stress in a supportive and non-competitive environment will achieve greater results for your business and employees’ mental health.
By Yvette Timmins, Founder & CEO of Bloom College, Award Winning Florist, Speaker & Mental Health Advocate.