The nature of health and wellbeing requirements have changed over past years – with differing working styles, physical health requirements, and mental health challenges, changing what people need from their employers.
With a rise in sedentary working styles, alongside health risks associated with the pandemic, there are significant physical health challenges to navigate over the coming months. Additionally, it’s now been found that 1 in 6 people are experiencing a common mental health problem at any point at any time. This, in terms of Greater Manchester is almost half a million people.
To support wellbeing with Good Employment in mind means to remain adaptable, considering the changing pressures of the time and providing support where needed. In July, we had a Supporters Network Event on health and wellbeing, where we explored the practical information on how employers can build strong support policies moving forward. This blog summarises the guidance from the panel, with more information to be found in the full recording, and resource list available at the end.
Developing a Health and Wellbeing Plan
The pandemic has impacted organisations, and people, in several different ways. As a result, there will not be a one size fits all solution to supporting physical and mental wellbeing – however there are many areas to consider when developing a wellbeing plan.
Ultimately, if people are physically and mentally well, they will be at their best at work. Undoubtedly, there are a number of clear business benefits to taking the right approach - alongside general benefits in the lives and health of employees.
However, introducing health and wellbeing policies is about more than just words on paper. What kind of behaviours are you driving in the workplace? Is this a culture where people feel comfortable speaking about their mental wellbeing? Is it a culture where people can have adjustments made due to physical requirements? Rather than relying on people to come forward and ask for health support – the support available needs to be clear, and open conversations around health need to be encouraged.
This plan also needs to be preventative – and not waiting for, for example an employee to be going through the Menopause to create a Menopause policy. Anticipating the potential need of employees, and providing ongoing support through challenges, will demonstrate that support is not rushed and reactionary, but planned and thoughtful.
Once in place, health and wellbeing policies should be under continual review – checking upon what’s working and not working, and why, will only strengthen the available support offers.
Supporting on Physical Health Challenges
Being active at work is important – with the pandemic leading to a rise in working from home, and being sat still at the desk, with little or no movement throughout the working day. Introducing activity into the day doesn’t only mean participating in organised team workouts or 10k runs – it could be as simple as lunchtime walks, or introducing breaks within the day to do small workouts.
In terms of working set-ups, it’s also beneficial to consider the ergonomics of working space – with insufficient desks and desk chairs leading to a number of potential physical issues as a result. Even shoe choices can be impactful, with a pressure for formal yet uncomfortable shoes in the workplace having impact over time.
Again, part of supporting on physical health comes down to the kind of culture an organisation fosters. Is it a culture where people feel comfortable to take a break, and go for a walk? Creating an environment that encourages people to move more will have significant business benefits, with improved physical and mental health, better productivity, and improved morale.
Supporting on Mental Health Challenges
“Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” – World Health Organisation
As the quote above indicates, the ability to perform well at work and a positive level of mental wellbeing come hand in hand. Employers take up a huge space in people’s lives and will have a direct impact on this wellbeing – and whether people feel comfortable coping with the stresses of their life. During the webinar, we asked the audience – “On a scale of 0-10, how much have you got on your plate right now?”. The scale went from 0, a level of calm where people feel comfortable and without stress, to 10, where there are struggles to cope with workloads, and the risk of total burnout.
The responses mostly ranged from 6-8, with people in our audience admitting that there are a number of stresses in their lives – both personally and professionally. People’s ability to feel like they can handle what they have on their plate is fundamental to their overall wellbeing. When the demand on employees is too high, and the resources are not enough to handle that demand – that’s when people will experience poor wellbeing and quality of life.
The pandemic opened many people’s eyes towards the stresses in their colleagues’ lives – when for remote workers, people could now see into colleagues’ homes and home lives. This highlighted like never before the need for employers to be providing the needed support during these times of stress.
In terms of resources, we’ll be listing below the many resources mentioned in this Webinar. However, one that was particularly mentioned was the ‘Shining a Light on Suicide’ prevention training – which only takes 20 minutes but could save a life. Signposting towards external resources is a crucial addition to a wellbeing policy, as whilst organisations are not expected to be experts in every aspect of wellbeing – there are experts out there available to offer guidance, a conversation, and support to your people.
Mental Health Toolkit for Employers
The Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, in partnership with The Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, have created a toolkit for employers. The toolkit is an essential resource for both SMEs and larger firms - offering relevant and direct ways for employers to address mental health in the workplace. It also contains a number of case studies from Greater Manchester employers, with practical examples of how good mental and physical wellbeing plans can come together in practice.
- Hayley Lever, Exec Lead GM Moving & CEO at GreaterSport
- Dr Sally Hemming, Health & Wellbeing Lead at Ernst & Young
- Charlene Mulhern, Mental Wellbeing System Lead at The Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership
- Supporters Network Event: Video Recording and Presentation Slides
- The Good Employment Charter: Toolkit on Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace
- Training opportunities: Connect 5 Training and Shining a Light on Suicide
- Videos on mental health topics: Living Life to the Full
- For free, online mental health support visit SilverCloud and Kooth (support for under 18's)
- For bereavement related support, visit Greater Manchester Bereavement Service
- For support on encouraging physical activity in the workplace, see the GM Moving Hub