Service: Human resources 

Topic: Mental wellbeing 

Five ways to support your co-workers in mental health awareness month

By Deval Patel

13 May 2021

It’s mental health awareness month. And after the year we’ve had, there’s been a rise in mental health conditions, as well as increased awareness around how we’re feeling. 

British workers spend an average of 3,507 days at work over a lifetime. So it’s important we feel comfortable enough to talk about mental health issues at work. And it’s vital to feel we have a community to support us. 

Here are five ways colleagues can support their co-workers.

1. Encourage discussions around mental health and personal topics 

Most companies now encourage employees to talk about their personal lives and bring their whole selves to work. As colleagues, encouraging discussions around people’s home lives and enabling them to talk about problems outside of work can be helpful to someone who’s struggling. It’s also important to remember that you may not always know who’s struggling. So allowing people to talk can be a great way to get to the heart of the issue. 

2. Keep in touch

Over the last year, most of us have had to adjust to working from home. It’s cut off many of our networks and communities, and made it harder to stay social. Keeping in touch virtually can be difficult, but it’s important to keep it up. Outside of daily meetings, lunch video calls, Friday drinks over Zoom and little messages to see how people are doing are a great way to stay in touch. 

As we get back into the office, it’s also important to check in with everyone else and see how they’re finding life getting back to normal. You could take someone out for a walk or a coffee just to check in with them. 

3. Think before you hit send

It can be easy to come across as more brisk than we mean to when sending an email. But on the other end of the keyboard, the person receiving your email may have found your feedback rude or discouraging. 

If you have to give negative feedback it’s a good idea to include some positives as well. Consider saying one positive thing, one thing which needs improvement and then finishing with something positive. 

Taking a step back from your computer or leaving the email in draft form for further consideration before you press send is another great way to ensure your emails come across as you mean them to. 

4. Give praise

It can be easy to forget to give people praise, even when we think they’re doing an amazing job. If you think someone might be struggling, it’s a great idea to take a step back and think about some of the positive work they’ve done. It could even be how they handled homeschooling as well as work. Or something simple like an extra piece of work they’ve helped you with. Positive words can go a long way - and they can help improve our own mood as well. 

5. Encourage breaks and healthy habits

Many companies have effective processes around encouraging breaks and healthy habits. But if the culture isn’t enforced it can be difficult to feel we can take them up. Meetings in less formal surroundings, bringing healthy treats to the office, and leading by example can be a great way to encourage healthy habits. For example, if you always eat lunch at your desk you may be setting an example and creating a culture which says everyone must eat at their desk.
 

In the difficult year we’ve had it’s important to realise that more people than we think are struggling. You may be able to see someone’s struggle clearly, or you may not even realise.

Encouraging open communication and creating a positive atmosphere are the best things you can do to help with your colleagues’ mental health. But don’t be too hard on yourself either - if you’re being positive and kind that goes a long way. 

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