Fostering Mental Well-Being in the Workplace

Fostering Mental Well-Being in the Workplace

Thursday 25th August 2022

Posted ByShannon Laugesen

One thing that is crucial and is often not discussed enough is mental well-being in the workplace. Following on from my last post about team culture; regular reviews, social outings and a supportive community are ways that help to create and strengthen team morale. Recognising and prioritising mental health in the workplace is paramount. 

Mental well-being is one of the most valuable business assets – like any asset, it can be developed, maintained or neglected

Let’s first start with the individual…

Te whare tapa whā is a holistic framework that was developed in 1982 by Dr. Mason Durie. It symbolises four dimensions of Māori health and well-being that has been integrated into New Zealand’s health policies and practices. These four dimensions include taha tinana (physical health), taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whānau (family health) and taha hinengaro (mental health). If one of these dimensions becomes imbalanced, damaged or missing, this can affect your overall well-being. It is important to check in with your Hauora (health) and all of these four elements that make up your whare (your house/your body/your temple). 

Some examples of things that can help to protect your Hauora:

  • Taha tinana (physical health): exercise, yoga and healthy eating.
  • Taha wairua (spiritual health): a connection with yourself, nature or religion.
  • Taha whānau (family health): being connected with friends or family and learning about your whakapapa (genealogy).
  • Taha hinengaro (mental health): mindfulness and meditation, self-care and voluntary work.

The above framework helps to distinguish what parts of your four walls require extra support. Why is this important to workplace well-being, you might ask? Because the average person spends one third of their life at work. It is hard to combat mental well-being in the workplace without first acknowledging that an individual has a life outside of work and external situations can have an effect on their overall productivity. Each person brings their whole self to work and makes up a unique aspect of the team, so looking after and supporting those four walls can play a vital role in creating a healthy workplace environment.

Mental well-being at work

Last year, when Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) encountered four months of lockdown, each member of our team got two consecutive days off to focus on our mental well-being. It was a blessing in disguise and we all appreciated it. During Mental Health Awareness Week in September, our team jumped on Instagram to participate in our Five Ways to Wellbeing last year which included: Connect, Keep Learning, Be Active, Give and Take Notice. Lockdown was tough on a lot of people and we thought that by sharing ways that help us through hard times, it might provide a sense of transparency and resonate well with others.

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Watch this video to explore why mental health in the workplace is important.

All workplaces are unique; knowing your team and what would be beneficial for them is key. Here are ten ideas to support mental well-being in the workplace:

  • Encourage team outings and social activities – read the article on work culture here.
  • Create a space for open communication and foster good leadership.
  • Develop a well-being plan for your workplace and get your workers involved in the process.
  • Provide a space within the office for workers to rest, relax and recharge.
  • Implement a platform in your business for employees to use ­– for example, an app like Headspace that specialises in meditation and other wellness support.
  • Incorporate more plants within the office to improve air quality, increase productivity and instil a connection to nature.
  • Promote a workplace that is in support of mental well-being leave (in New Zealand, this is known as stress leave). Mental well-being is just as important as physical health, and a lot of employees feel guilty about taking sick leave in general, most likely due to our hard-working Kiwi mentality. But a good workplace would encourage taking mental health days, when needed, to help increase productivity and employees’ well-being.
  • Give back to the community in some way and involve your employees, whether it’s participating in a charity run for The Mental Health Foundation, getting the team together to do a beach cleanup with Sustainable Coastlines or packing lunches for kids who need food in schools with Eat My Lunch. This will help bond your team and give them a sense of purpose knowing that they are doing their bit in the grand scheme of things.
  • Get a member of the team to participate in a St John Mental Health First Aid course to understand, identify and address situations relating to mental well-being. I recently completed the course and I highly recommend it.
  • Offer free or subsidised therapy sessions for your team. Implementing an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) within your workplace can help to assist employees with personal and/or work-related problems. They can offer counselling services, tools and resources to help with your physical and mental well-being.

Mental well-being is an integral part of health because it not only affects your mind but can also impact your physical health and your everyday life. Being conscious of that as a manager, a team member or an individual is what will help you foster strong, meaningful relationships.

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