Mental health plays a crucial role in the workplace

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, mental health has been front and centre of the workplace refocus of late and rightly so. More than 30% of adult South Africans suffer from some sort of mental health issue, affecting their ability to think clearly and process their thoughts logically. This in turn can negatively affect their outward behaviours and decision making, which is especially important in the workplace. 

Mariet Visser, coach, trainer, and the co-founder of We Do Change is on a mission to empower individuals and businesses to take control of their mental health and create small but effective changes in the workplace. 

She shares some of the best Agile principles, a popular form of coaching, as well as other entry level training options that can be used by both employers and employees to support anyone suffering from mental health issues.

Learn how to STOP Looking after your mental health starts with learning and applying skills such as mindfulness as this helps create presence within oneself and increases your ability to become more self-aware. One tool Mariet learnt years ago was the STOP skill, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and essentially an acronym that stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe and then Proceed.

Even if it’s just by getting up from your desk to make a cup of coffee, by pausing momentarily, you allow yourself to take a breath which acts as an anchor to the present moment. During this short respite, you can see what is happening both inside and outside of you, assess what you are doing and how you are feeling. Use the information gained during this check-in to either continue your course, or change it.
Know the difference between reacting and respondingA healthy mind can make all the difference when it comes to your reactions.   Knowing the difference between choosing to react instinctively or impulsively or respond with guided thinking and reasoning is very important. 

Knowing and becoming self-aware of your behaviour will give you an honest indication of your reactions, and signal when you should pay closer attention to your mental health and wellness.
 Focus on one thing at a time A key value that the Agile way of working teaches is to focus on one thing at a time. We are constantly distracted by others and the environment as well as our own thought processes. Even the smallest of distractions like receiving a text, email or meeting request and even the mere thought of multitasking can negatively play on our mental health, creating what is often referred to as scattered brain syndrome or attention deficit disorder. 

This essentially means that distractions make it difficult for us to stay in the present moment, to concentrate or to switch off. Taking small steps like silencing the notifications on your device, journaling your feelings on paper, and making a physical and permanent visual to-do-list that you can work through systematically, one item at a time, can really help improve your focus and productivity and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed and disorganised.

The critical role of an employer  
Providing the right support for employees who suffer from mental health issues is important for businesses of all shapes and sizes. There is plenty of research that shows that poor mental health can lead to a whole of host of issues in the workplaces, such as decreased productivity, unhealthy working relationships between colleagues and increased sick-related absenteeism. It can also greatly compromise workplace safety.

Mariet urges all business owners and organisations to implement proactive mental health support by:Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health: Everyone needs to know that it is ok, not to feel ok.Creating a safe working space:It’s scary to open up, to share your feelings and talk about something that is personal to you as it makes you feel vulnerable. Employees need to feel comfortable to talk about their mental health, feel supported and know how to ask for help, so ensure the working environment caters for this.

Being a mental health advocate:Managers tend to model the behaviour they wish to see in their organisation when it comes to working hard and being honest and punctual so why not about mental health too? By going first and addressing your own mental health issues, you make it possible for others to take the first step too. 

Learning to recognise and acknowledge the needs of your team

Often our real needs hide behind our complaints and frustrations. Listening more closely can be a huge help in identifying the needs and cries for help behind the words.

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