While mental health problems are common, talking about them appears to be less common. Let’s change that. Join Dr. Ian Gargan as he is interviewed about mental health stigma, labelling and how we can change attitudes towards mental health with a focus on men’s mental health this November. This is a 20-minute webinar with an additional 10 minutes for Q&A at the end.
The Health Belief Model is a great example of how content can be so powerful in driving healthy behaviour change. Whether it is increasing physical activity, saving money, healthy eating, or practicing mindfulness, educational content helps to facilitate the transferral of knowledge from healthcare professionals and experts to the consumer.
According to the model, health-related knowledge feeds into self-efficacy: which refers to expectations about one’s ability to do the behaviour. If they feel it is worthwhile for their health and that they are capable of executing it, they are more likely to perform the behaviour. Over time, this results in the improved health outcomes that the individual learned about in the first place.
So, for example, if a person is provided with content on the health benefits of engaging in 30 minutes of brisk walking everyday such that it reduces stress levels, lowers blood sugar, and improves heart health, they now have this health-related knowledge. They might consider whether this is feasible and decide that they are capable of walking 30 minutes to work every day instead of driving. Making this a habit over time then leads to the aforementioned improved health outcomes. But if we take a step back – one vital determinant for people to understand the content is adequate health literacy.
According to Sorensen et al. (2012), health literacy:
“entails people’s knowledge, motivation, and competence to access, understand, appraise, and apply health information in order to make judgements and decisions in everyday life concerning healthcare, disease prevention, and health promotion to maintain or improve quality of life during the life course.”
So, health outcomes really do improve as health literacy advances – but it’s not always easy. There are constant challenges from limited technology and reading skills to misleading and biased information online. Both the employer and the content providers can play a crucial role in addressing these hurdles. A growing body of research indicates that limited health literacy can actually lead to adverse health outcomes. For example, research indicates that between one-third to one-half of all adults struggle with health literacy – and 87% of people need help with health-related information.
The same goes for financial literacy. A meta-analysis of 126 impact evaluation studies found that financial education significantly impacts financial behaviour.
Advances in technology mean that individuals can accesshealth-related information and content wherever, whenever they want. With modern health solutions and apps, employers can support their employees regardless of their geographic location. This removes physical barriers that traditionally impeded access to healthcare support and resources and allows for a more equal workplace that supports employees across the globe.
There is an increasing number of individuals downloading and using health-related apps to inform themselves on health and wellbeing related advice and content. According to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence Data, there were 290 million downloads of Health and Fitness apps in Europe in 2021. Further, in recent research by Benefex, we assessed over 1,600 employees regarding their use of digital health and wellbeing apps. We found that while employees use a variety of apps to support their health and wellbeing, the most commonly reported shortcoming of these apps was cost. In today’s economic crisis, spending 15 pound or euro a month on a wellbeing app is putting extra financial pressure on already stressed-out individuals. Employers can support their employees with this financial burden by providing them with the health and wellness apps they want to access, but may not necessarily be able to afford.
While it is vital that health-related content is evidence-based, it should be delivered in layman terms. The content provider should deliver health-related advice so that it is easy to digest and understand. Simple language works best here. In fact, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends using a universal precautions approach; assume all consumers are at risk of not understanding education and instruction.
This recommendation is applicable across a range of domains. Just as there is no point in an employee reading the benefits of high intensity interval training for lowering systolic blood pressure without an understanding of what these terms mean in layman terms, there is also no point in someone being told to put away 5% of their annual income for their pension if they don’t understand why this is important.
The consumer of the content mustbe able to comprehend the advice before they can 1) decide whether they agree with it and feel they have the self-efficacy to follow it, and 2) apply it to their everyday life.
The employer is becoming increasingly important in delivering trustworthy information to their employees. From the employer’s perspective, it’s vital that they ensure they are using a wellbeing provider who only delivers evidence-based, regularly reviewed advice in content on health and finance. Rather than opinion pieces that are provided by social media influencers and celebrities, they must ensure it is research-oriented and trustworthy content.
On the POWR wellbeing tool, we have a wide range of content curators who are experts in their field, including physiotherapists, psychotherapists, personal trainers, nutritionists, financial wellbeing experts, and environmentalists.
While educational content is vital in providing the knowledge necessary to facilitate positive behaviour change, pairing this content with a diverse range of digital interventions is key in creating long-term healthy habits. On POWR, we have found that a combination of educational content and digital interventions has led to optimal wellbeing outcomes. Our most popular content items in the past 6 months have ranged from articles, soundscapes, webinars, podcasts, and healthy recipes.
Diverse content can help to solve diverse problems. As much as populations are diverse, people are also diverse, so they need appropriate, trustworthy content that they can apply to their everyday lives.
Psychologist and Digital Wellbeing Manager at Wrkit
Journaling is a practice that has become increasingly popular as awareness of its benefits grows. Simply put, it is writing down thoughts and feelings regularly, usually daily, to help the writer to understand and process emotions. It is often likened to a more modern version of keeping a diary and is something that everyone can easily do, reaping the positive mental health benefits that come from reflecting on the day.
What are the benefits of journaling?
It may come as a surprise that there are quite so many benefits to journaling but the power of writing down thoughts and feelings to clear the mind should not be underestimated.
Helps to practice gratitude
Taking time to appreciate the successes of the day and celebrate these positives can increase life satisfaction and allow people to focus on what they have, opposed to what they lack. In turn, this helps to appreciate the good and alleviate negative thoughts.
Time to focus on the self
Dedicating just five minutes a day to sitting down somewhere comfortable and quiet to journal is a great way for people to take time for themselves. It’s also an opportunity to step away from screens and technology and really disconnect from work and the world around to focus on self-awareness and reflection.
Improves mental health and wellbeing
Journaling has the potential to significantly improve mental health and allows people to manage their symptoms effectively. It has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by helping people to manage their feelings and improve memory, aid stress relief, increase optimism and improve general mood.
Assists with problem-solving
Writing can help to address problems and overcome them by breaking them down and making them seem more manageable. This enables people to think more clearly and tackle issues without feeling overwhelmed.
Benefits creativity and writing skills
Finally, journaling is also a practice that prompts and enhances creativity and allows for development of writing skills, both of which can aid performance at work. People in busy roles often have a million things going through their minds, but journaling can help consolidate these thoughts, set goals and foster clear thinking.
Tips for effective journaling
In order to get the most out of journaling, it’s important to write somewhere relaxing to optimise focus. For it to be most effective, people should get into the habit of writing every day or as regularly as possible. Always keeping the journal to hand means that it’s possible to write down thoughts throughout the day. Some people may choose to have a digital journal, for example, on their phone, which means it is always with them if they want to note something down.
W – What do you want to write about? What’s going on? How do you feel? What are you thinking about?
R – Review or reflect on it.
I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen or keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-centre yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page or set a timer on your phone.
E – Exit start by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two at a time. Note any action steps to take.
There are many benefits of journaling and the list goes on. WRKIT’s POWR platform has a reflect feature that provides prompt questions to get people started on the road to reflection and get in tune with thoughts and feelings to improve wellbeing.
The discourse around workplace burnout has been increased in recent years as awareness of the damaging mental health effects of long-term, chronic, inefficiently managed stress at work has increased. Especially throughout the pandemic, when people have been working longer hours and dealing with the pressures of remote working and lockdown, incidences of people completely burning out and needing to take time off work have been prevalent. This has especially problematic among healthcare workers, with mental health related absences reported to have cost the NHS £805 million from January 2020 to June 2021.
Burnout can be avoided, but only when people are given the tools to recognise and manage the signs of stress that can amount to burnout when left alone for too long. As with other forms of stress outside of work, human psychology reacts to workplace stress in three key evolutionary displays: fight, freeze and flight.
Recognising signs of stress
Those who have a fight response to stress may experience increased irritability and anger. This can be accompanied by urges to lash out or smash something, a frequently raised voice and a tendency to be accusatory towards others. This response can also manifest physically as a tight jaw or shoulders, neck pain, high blood pressure, clenched fists and a red face.
The freeze response is expressed as an inability to concentrate, brain fog, the mind freezing or locking up and becoming very forgetful. Those experiencing a freeze response may find themselves avoiding certain situations, distancing or isolating themselves from others and becoming demotivated both at work and in life.
The flight response can cause people experiencing stress to become restless, fidgety and unable to sleep. They may also feel trapped and excessively or constantly worried. The physical manifestation of the flight response is anxiety-like symptoms, such as a tight chest, affected breathing, stomach pains and excess sweating.
If you notice signs of stress that are detrimental to work or your daily life, it is crucial to manage them as quickly as possible. Allowing stresses to persist on a long-term basis will lead to burnout when the brain cannot function properly anymore.
Slow the body down
Stress makes your brain and body operate at high speed and one of the first steps that need to be taken is using tools to slow it down. Guided meditation and focused breathing are effective ways to achieve this through stimulation of the diaphragm and vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve runs through the diaphragm muscle and as the muscle moves around the nerve in deep breathing exercises, a parasympathetic response, the nervous system’s relaxed state, is triggered. In addition, the heartbeat naturally slows during deep breathing as the body works to ensure that lungs are properly filled with oxygen and that excessive pressure in the arteries is avoided.
Slowing the body down will limit the physical responses to stress triggered by the evolutionary fight or flight mechanisms. Wrkit’s breathe and listen sections on the POWR platform are excellent places to start in slowing the body down and manage stress. Guided meditation sessions are also available to help refocus both body and mind.
Focusing on your sleep hygiene plan to ensure you are sleeping well for enough time will help to regulate stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, in the body.
Establish a consistent bedtime routine so your body and brain know to start winding down for the night, try and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, avoid exercising, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evenings and limit blue light exposure, such as from phones, for an hour before going to sleep.
Good sleep hygiene helps to keep cortisol and adrenaline fluctuations in a normal rhythm, improving mood, lowering stress and generally supporting mental wellbeing.
Exercise and movement
Exercising boosts the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters – endorphins. Any aerobic exercise will pump endorphins through the body, reducing stress. In addition, activity leads to positive physical effects, such as improving cardiovascular, digestive and immune health and can protect the body from the negative physical fight or flight responses.
In addition to exercise, daily pick me ups such as spending 10 minutes in a park or the garden can be beneficial in minimising stress. Fresh air and greenery are instant mood boosters that do not require putting time aside for a long, strenuous workout.
Journalling and reflecting are effective ways to manage stress as they encourage people to scrutinise the causes and meaning of stress. It is a good technique to come to terms with and gain a deeper understanding of stress by putting it into writing and then working to improve the root causes of negative feelings.
Reflecting can give people the tools to mindfully treat triggers of stress, rather than simply managing the symptoms of the stress. This will reduce overall stress as problems are solved and removed.
Join Wrkit’s very own physical wellbeing expert, Conor Barry, and Human Centred Movement rehab therapist and movement expert, Mark McGroarty, as they discuss how remote workers can optimise their movement to reduce pain, improve posture and move better while working from home.
“Thank you for hosting a great webinar on ‘Remote working and its impact on health movement’. Within our company we had attendees from the Sales and Business development team as well as our HR department. They gave great feedback and said how helpful and informative Conor and Mark were. I think we could all take a tip or two from their presentation! We are currently transitioning back into the office following the pandemic and this topic is very high on our agendas, as well as those of our clients. The webinar topics are always on interesting and relevant subjects and presented in a way that is easy to digest. We can’t wait to see more from the WRKIT team and the webinars that they provide.”
– Stephanie George, Client Account Manager at Healix
The number of adults in England who feel lonely has been on the rise since 2017, but the last year has unsurprisingly accelerated the increase. Between 2019 and 2020, loneliness in England jumped by 44% from 2.6 million people to 3.7 million as the population was forced to stay at home and socialising in professional and personal capacities became digital.
The increase in loneliness coincides with a general decline in wellbeing, which has been in motion since before the pandemic and exacerbated by lockdowns and restrictions. These red flags around general wellbeing in the population have led to calls to measure national progress in wellbeing via the gross domestic wellbeing (GDWe) index, rather than traditional metrics such as GDP.
For many people, working from home has brought about lifestyle changes that promote a better work-life balance meaning flexible, hybrid working looks like it now has a permanent place in society, but with this, there is the potential for employees to become isolated.
Following the lifting of restrictions and the return to the workplace, employers should consider the role that their office or central space has in combatting loneliness among employees and supporting their overall wellbeing.
As we move forwards, the workplace needs to become something more than simply a place to work as many people have discovered that they can effectively work from outside it. The workplace now needs to be a place for colleagues to be together, to collaborate and to socialise. Viewing it in this way and encouraging employees to think of the workplace as more than that will help to promote social interaction and minimise loneliness.
Rather than asking employees to come into work on specific days, employers could encourage them to come in for specific events. This could be work-related, for example, a team brainstorm, learning session or company catch up, or entirely social, perhaps a special lunch or post-work drinks.
By doing this, the workplace offers something extra that they don’t get at home. Offices will then move away from being a place for stress and towards being a place to interact with others, encouraging workers to spend less time alone.
Using the workplace as a social work hub will improve overall company culture, as employees have the opportunity to bond outside the boundaries of work. As well as keeping loneliness among colleagues to a minimum, promoting a social, friendly culture will improve engagement and job satisfaction.
Loneliness is a difficult feeling for people to process and can have an incredibly negative effect on overall mental health and wellbeing. Although restrictions have lifted and many people are socialising regularly again, the new hybrid working world may make it easy for people to isolate themselves from their colleagues, heightening feelings of loneliness. Putting measures in place to keep workforces cohesive and social is a great step to take in supporting employee wellbeing and combatting loneliness.
After more than a year of lockdown restrictions, it is no surprise that many people are raring to get back to normal life again, but that is not the case for everyone. As people start to use workplaces more often, perhaps as before or perhaps now adopting a hybrid model, employers need to keep in mind that their employees will be going through another huge life adjustment, and this may be taxing on mental health.
By acknowledging the extra pressures, including health-related anxiety, that will be on employees as they transition back to life in the workplace, employers must be supportive and stay one step ahead to prevent more serious mental health issues from arising down the line.
When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, prevention is always favourable over cure. As problems progress, they get more complicated to resolve, more challenging for the person experiencing them and can lead to an impact on the business if a person needs to take time off as a result.
With this in mind, here are some steps employers can take to ensure they are taking care of their employees’ mental wellbeing in the return to the office.
Provide suitable self-care resources
A simple way to ensure staff are taking care of their own mental wellbeing is providing or signposting to resources such as self-help activities, meditation, or resilience training. These give employees mechanisms to help themselves at the first hint of mental turmoil and resources such as resilience training may prevent those feelings from arising at all in the first place.
Wrkit’s Wellbeing product, POWR, is designed to empower workers to proactively manage their mental and physical health. It provides plans across life, mind, work, food, activity and sleep to offer holistic, preventative support for employees.
When used in conjunction with the Surveys product, which bypasses conscious bias to measure how people actually feel, the POWR platform becomes an incredibly useful tool as the surveys can pick up on issues that the person is not yet fully aware of.
These surveys can flag when it looks like someone might need professional support to get their wellbeing back on track, and access to these professionals is the next thing employers need to consider in the return to the workplace.
Mental health first aiders and professional care
Not all issues will be able to be resolved through self-help, so all businesses should have measures in place for when problems progress.
This could be in the form of colleagues who volunteer to train as mental health first aiders or giving employees access to professional counselling and therapy. If a problem has developed to the point of needing support from a professional, it is still important to get help as soon as possible.
Access to professional support should be proactively communicated so that employees do not have to ask a member of the HR team or a line manager as this could put people off seeking help. Being open about how employees can access help should they need it will begin to establish a company culture in which people are not ashamed or worried to admit that they are struggling, which is really important in overall employee wellbeing.
Creating an open and honest culture
By creating a culture in which mental health issues of all scales are normalised, employees will feel more comfortable turning to their colleagues for support. They will also feel like their company cares about them and wants them to get better, rather than feeling like it is something that they must hide for fear of judgment.
An atmosphere that accepts that a huge number of people face struggles with their mental wellbeing will empower people to get the help they need earlier on, once again supporting the idea that prevention is the best cure.
Take work-life balance inspiration from the pandemic
The pandemic has proved that, on the whole, people can be trusted to be productive when not in an office and when not necessarily working standard nine to five hours. Better work-life balance will improve overall employee wellness and engagement, boosting productivity and job satisfaction.
Employers should take inspiration from this and, when possible, allow employees to take control over their work-life balance by working flexible hours or from home if they want to.
These kinds of policies and measures tell employees that their employers are invested in their wellbeing and are there to support them when needed. Making people feel valued in their jobs and having outstanding support for when mental wellbeing does take a dip are both critical factors in improving employee wellness and should be central as people readjust to life back in the workplace.
Simone Biles’ decision to pull out of the Olympic team gymnastics finals to focus on her mental health makes her the most recent in a spate of athletes dismantling the stigma around putting themselves and their mental wellbeing above their career.
During the tennis season, we saw Naomi Osaka drop out of the French Open because of the effect press conferences have on her wellbeing and Emma Raducanu withdraw from Wimbledon following breathing difficulties, possibly a symptom of an anxiety attack, during her match.
Although there has been some backlash, especially in the case of Biles and Osaka who have openly cited mental health issues, all three athletes have received a general outpouring of support and blown open the conversation around prioritising mental health over work.
Most of us are not on an international stage at work, but mental health issues can still affect anyone. It is time for mental wellbeing related sick leave to be destigmatised. The past year has been difficult for everyone and has highlighted the importance of employers being compassionate and understanding of issues surrounding mental wellbeing.
Everyone can learn from Osaka, Biles and Raducanu and the support that their sponsors and coaches have shown them. By accepting mental health problems and allowing employees to take time off as they would with a physical illness, employers can help employees rest and access the help that they need early on before matters deteriorate further.
As well as early intervention minimising the amount of time the employee may need to take off work, these actions will make them feel valued and cared for in a time of need, boosting job satisfaction and reinforcing that mental health problems are common and not something to feel ashamed of.
Elite athletes and regular employees all face pressure and expectations, and this can take a serious toll on mental health. We live in an era with a scientific understanding of mental health issues that proves that they are as valid as physical ailments. Going forwards, this needs to be reflected by employers all over the world as ensuring employee mental wellbeing is protected and understood is far more effective than forcing people to lie or work through it, and we should all be celebrating the athletes helping to promote this.
Resilience at work has been a growing topic for the past few years as workplace stress levels continue to rise and present a myriad of problems for businesses and individuals. Training in resilience is an increasingly popular aspect of employee development to empower employees to overcome work stress, persevere in the face of adversity and be able to bounce back.
Although resilience training is beneficial for employee wellbeing and mental health, businesses should really be focusing on tackling the root cause of stress, which often lies in how we work. A major contributing factor to burnout is the perception that long working days equal productive working days, which has only been amplified while workforces are at home and employees feel added pressure to prove they are present.
Working hours that extend into the evenings and weekends, the time which should be dedicated to unwinding, will inevitably lead to burnout, no matter how resilient the person is.
Despite this, resilience training should undoubtedly be part of companies’ mixed wellness offerings. Employers can help employees develop resilience skills through the practice of regular time out, unhooking from tech at times, creating space between meetings and allowing staff to take time during the day to spend on self-focus – perhaps going for a walk or having some quiet time to unwind.
Employees can take an active part in developing their own resilient mindsets by discussing what is working well and driving optimisation with senior members of staff and by reframing challenging situations to look like a learning opportunity, and a way to grow and develop as an individual and as a business.
This “growth mindset” should be central in resilience training and can be encouraged through regular catch up and discussion sessions, and clarity around future plans will help to create more security. On the other hand, lack of dialogue and planning will lead to fixed mindsets within the business.
Beyond resilience training, employers should support their employees in achieving a sustainable work-life balance through exploring processes which will alleviate the intensity of work and reduce employee stress, which is often the root of workplace stress and mental health issues. This could include reviewing email policies and ensuring communication from managers is limited, if not completely eradicated, outside of working hours so leaders are demonstrating a healthy work and life balance.
Employers can also look at hybrid home working models to give staff greater control of their work schedule and having mental health first aiders available in the case that workers need further care and advice.
Wrkit specialises in the creation of better, healthier working environments. To speak to an Engagement Specialist about alleviating workplace stress and burnout and to explore options for resilience training, visit www.wrkit.com.
As Mental Health Awareness week is behind us once more, we think it’s important to remind ourselves that our mental health, and that of our work colleagues, is something we should focus on year-round.
We wholeheartedly welcome the focus on mental health and anything which throws a spotlight on wellbeing, particularly workplace wellbeing, is, in our book, something to celebrate.
But, just as all reasonable people understand that the responsibilities of owning a puppy stretch well beyond the 12 days of Christmas, you should not leave your focus on your own and your work colleagues’ mental health fallow for too long.
Keeping your glass half full
The NHS provides typically sensible and achievable evidence-based advice, suggesting five steps to mental wellbeing:
Connect with other people. We’re social animals after all. Call your friends or family, take a colleague to lunch and build bridges. If you know of a neighbour who lives alone, check in on them or put a note through their door.
Be physically active. You don’t have to run a marathon or cycle 100 miles, get away from your desk at lunchtime, walk a different route home or to the next bus stop along. Tune into your surroundings. There’s a whole world out there to explore.
Learn a new skill. This can help boost your self-confidence and provide a new purpose. What will you do next? What can your employer do to help?
Pay attention to the present moment. What are you experiencing right now? Build your self-awareness. Challenge yourself to understand your thoughts and feelings. And be honest.
Give to others. This can create positive feelings of self-worth. It could be as simple as helping somebody with a deadline or just saying thank you.
Wrkit are privileged to offer a product for every bullet point of advice, giving a 360 Wellness solution:
Connecting – with changing working environments, see each other face to face and even calling without purpose can be difficult to fit into the working day. Wrkit’s Recognition tool provides a social wall that takes less than 30 seconds to populate with stories of thanks, well wishes or congratulations.
Physical Activity – not just exercise, but movement. Moving every hour on the hour is so important for supple joints, and Wrkit’s Move module provides on demand movement, deskercise and exercise videos that take no longer than 2 mins to complete.
Upskilling – learning what you want, when you want, is even more of a breeze when it’s free of charge. Wrkit’s Learning tool offers over 4500 courses in Nutrition, Pet Care, History, the Arts and professional skills such as leadership, technology skills and management – and 92% of courses are free to learn.
Being Present and Self-Aware – Wrkit’s POWR module provides scores in 6 key pathways: Mind, Work, Life, Sleep, Active and Food, providing a visual representation of how you’re doing and where you’re in need of a boost. Self-awareness is the key to change, and the scores are just the beginning. Tips, tricks and plans are provided to improve scores, optimise resilience, and drive longevity of positive mindset.
To find out more about how Wrkit can support your company with its talent engagement and wellness strategy, visit www.wrkit.com.