I recently facilitated a workshop for Business Owners and Managers hosted by NatWest Mentor entitled ‘Managing Workplace Wellbeing’. It re-enforced what I already knew about the topic. Most importantly, it highlighted to me and attendees how critical it is to know what you can do, and what you are now legally bound to do as an employer, for good mental health at work.

The World Health Organisation provides a good definition of what ‘well-being’ means and it is linked closely with mental health issues and feelings: it is the ability of an individual to ‘realise their own potential’ and be able to ‘cope with the normal stresses of life’; to be able to ‘work productively and fruitfully’ and to be able to ‘make a contribution to his or her community’.

If you are reading this now and have doubts about your own well-being read on……

In the past, I have been an employer and a manager. Now my role entails advising and assisting managers who find that they need help and guidance.

Following attendance at the workshop most would say (including me), that there is more that they could do for themselves and/or more that they could do for their staff.

It cannot be a ‘tick-box’ exercise – it’s about consistency and ongoing improvements in practice and behaviours.

So, what do you need to know?

Stress is a word that is so frequently branded around and often used inappropriately when a person is experiencing pressure. To clarify it’s worth referring to the definition from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE): Stress is ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Pressure is necessary for high level performance, to help with motivation but when this becomes excessive or relentless that’s when problems can arise and it can then become stress. Individuals may feel totally overwhelmed, confused, inadequate, anxious and unable to cope with the situation that they are in.

Not many years ago, these issues were taboo, and they were considered weaknesses without looking at the cause.

People who experienced true stress were not considered to be ill. There was little empathy and limited understanding and within a work environment you were expected to ‘pull yourself together’ and simply get on with the job in hand. In some organisations this can still be observed.

I run network meetings for businesses and a topic that invariably comes up for discussion is managing staff absenteeism.

Through my contact with Annie Cains, NatWest Relationship Manager, I secured Lucy Coombs from NatWest Mentor (Senior Employment Law & HR Consultant) to talk on the subject and as a consequence of discussions members agreed it would be useful to engage Mentor for a further session covering stress in the workplace. This guaranteed professional input and a ‘safe’ and confidential environment with clear ‘ground rules’ set at the start.

Sensitive topics were explored, which many could relate to and attendees also felt relaxed and comfortable within a small group to be able to share their own experiences if they wished and as appropriate, for the benefit of all. This provided a sense of ‘I am not alone’.

Dealing with such matters can be very difficult and the legal issues around what you can and can’t do are a minefield. Professional advice is imperative.

We all came away with a greater awareness of managing the most difficult situations, looking out for the signs and symptoms of stress and common issues that arise within the workplace.

We also acquired a better knowledge of ways to promote better mental health at work, building self-resilience and being good role models to create workplaces where well-being is taken seriously and is not just an after-thought once a problem emerges.

If this is something you are interested in as a business owner and/or manager or if you are interested in an upcoming workshop for managing workplace wellbeing, enquire or book your place here.