It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 18th–24th), and its timing has perhaps never been so spot on.
With COVID-19 still keeping us at least 2m apart from each other and sowing uncertainties about the present, let alone the future, it’s no wonder some of us might be struggling with our mental health.
Worries about work, job security, the commute and mixing with colleagues again will all be swirling around making those first tentative steps back into the office big ones for many people.
It’s all adding to the ingredients in the big mental stew simmering away in our heads. We might all have the same fears, worries, needs and doubts, but we can all have different ways of dealing with them, expressing them and different levels of coping.
So, now that coronavirus is adding to the usual pot of worries we all carry around, focusing on headspace in the workplace feels even more critical than ever.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 offers some useful resources for internal communicators not just for this week but throughout the year.
Organisers the Mental Health Foundation says that almost 15% of people experience mental health problems in the workplace, with women nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as their male colleagues.
Mental health is also the reason behind 12 per cent of all sickness absence days in the UK it says. It’s serious stuff.
Thankfully talking about mental health has started to emerge from the shadows and sharing how you’re doing with colleagues or manager shouldn’t be the leap off a cliff it was in the past.
After all, organisations that don’t look after their people lose their people.
UK Mental Health Charity Mind says organisations are only as strong as their people and that a mentally healthy workplace, promotes wellbeing for all staff, tackles the causes of work-related mental health problems, and supports people experiencing mental health problems.
It’s about providing people with information and guidance and offering a platform for them to share, ie fantastic internal comms!
The power of your community
So, the wonderful news is that internal comms is central to nurturing the community essential for good mental health among your people and in delivering on Mind’s three-pronged strategy.
The power of that community, particularly if it’s one where people are encouraged to share, hear others’ experiences (especially from senior leaders) and where they have access to the resources and help they need is enormous.
A fun HR Grapevine poll taken at the height of the coronavirus crisis when we were all working from home or being furloughed showed the one thing people missed the most is office banter and their colleagues.
It proves we are social animals and need the power of our community even if it’s more digital right now, to help us through the difficult times.
With large face to face meetings and more social get together plans stuffed into a back drawer for now at least, even something as simple as having easy to navigate mental health pages on your intranet with helpful resources and tools clearly signposted can help engender that community spirit.
Getting senior managers involved by asking them to share their own mental health stories can be incredibly powerful too – it can help your people feel like they are not alone and that the things they want to talk about will be listened to and acted on.
Minds@Work is a network of senior professionals who all share their personal mental health stories from the ups as well as the downs. It says hearing from the very top through blogs, vlogs and via face to face sessions when we’re allowed to again can be incredibly inspirational and reassuring.
Tools and resources
COVID-19 has brought our good mental health into sharp focus, and there are some timely and relevant resources out there to help internal communicators and their HR colleagues drive good mental health comms.
We’ve all seen plenty of how to work from home advice, and if most of your teams are still doing that, then it’s likely they will have their routine sorted by now. But weaving in mental health tips and advice into comms, about sleeping well, and taking breaks, for instance, can remind people that their mental health is just as important as their physical health.
That could just be daily reminders via group WhatsApp messages to take a break from the screen or to do some exercise. Opening up the conversation on Workplace or Yammer if you have them, and encouraging employees to talk and to share their experiences with one another is a fantastic way to show your organisation cares.
It’s a great ice-breaker and will encourage participation if that sharing comes from the very top too.
The Mental Health Foundation says it’s all about talking and ensuring your communications are especially helpful and reassuring during the pandemic.
Sprinkling a few mindfulness app suggestions, such as Mind’s Calm App or meditation app Headspace, into your messaging could help.
Or you could set up a dedicated intranet page offering links to the various apps out there (the NHS Mental Health Apps page provides a useful guide).
It can all help nudge your employees into thinking about their mental health more often.
Things can get serious very quickly – if you don’t have occupational health or in-house support available then it’s even more essential to provide outside links offering guidance, particularly as we all move through the coronavirus pandemic.
Reminding your people that immediate help is just a click away through this page on Mind could make all the difference.
Of course, good mental health in your workplace needs to extend beyond digital apps and online resources, but as internal communicators, we can certainly help to keep the ‘good to talk’ narrative going.
With perhaps some more difficult times ahead of us don’t forget to look after yourself too.