AHEAD of Mental Health Awareness Week (13 – 19 May), it is still true to say that mental health is considered the poor relation of physical health. Too many people are suffering in silence while at work.
The British Safety Council is urging employers to make changes in the workplace that address mental wellbeing and is offering employees practical tools to help them deal with stress and anxiety at work.
The charity is launching three videos to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week. They are based on tried-and-tested wellbeing techniques and exercises that encourage staff to relax in order to alleviate racing thoughts associated with stress and anxiety. They also encourage physical activity at work.
Matthew Holder, Head of Campaigns at the British Safety Council, said: “Emotional resilience is important because it improves effectiveness at work. However, it also helps people gain greater immunity from certain illnesses. By making these exercises part of their daily routine, employees should be able to improve their wellbeing and resilience to stress.”
A breathing exercise aims to control stress and anxiety with the help of breathing, by slowing the overall activity of the brain and relaxing both the mind and the body.
A visualisation exercise is intended to release tension and improve concentration. Visualisation exercises combined with deep breathing are proven to reduce stress and relax the body, giving the person a moment of peace in the hectic work environment.
Chair exercises include shoulder, leg, feet and stomach exercises for relaxing various parts of the body that stiffen and ache as we spend long periods of time at our desks. The modern sedentary lifestyle is responsible for an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and a loss of muscle and bone strength.
Matthew Holder continued: “The British Safety Council’s wellbeing videos are intended as a practical resource to help employees look after their wellbeing and deal with the pressures of everyday working life. We hope that they will become a part of the lunchtime routine, accessed in bite-size chunks and used when required.
“Workers’ wellbeing is a shared responsibility between employers and employees and a true reflection of organisational culture. For workers to practice wellbeing and mindfulness at work, they must be supported by their organisations, their senior leadership and by line managers. Our videos feature simple wellbeing exercises, which do not require any infrastructure investment from employers. However, workers’ ability to use them in the workplace is likely to be proof of employers’ commitment to their workers’ health and wellbeing.”
Recognising that mental ill health is affecting society from an early age, this spring the government launched pilot schemes in 370 primary and secondary schools. They are designed to test different approaches to improving children’s mental health. The trial will teach students mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises to help them “regulate their emotions” and deal with “the pressures of the modern world.”
The British Safety Council’s vision is that no-one should be injured or made ill through their work. The charity recognises that great progress has been made in Britain on addressing safety issues, but there is still significant work to be done on wellbeing and health, particularly when it comes to mental health.
Last year, using its training expertise, the British Safety Council, launched a range of mental health training courses. The courses are designed to start conversations about mental health and support employees who are experiencing mental ill-health. These courses are now available in both classroom and online formats.
In November 2018, acknowledging the growing importance of workplace wellbeing and the numerous uncertainties around it, the British Safety Council published a report Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work. It defines wellbeing in the workplace and suggests a set of metrics for effectively measuring wellbeing programmes and interventions.
In 2017, the British Safety Council helped to launch Mates in Mind. Mates in Mind provides a joined-up approach for employers when addressing mental health. It is now working with 210 organisations to support more than 188,000 employees.