When myself, Emilia and Rob volunteered to become Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace, one of the key takeaways from the training was that we didn’t want it to simply become a badge attached to our email signatures, with no real meaning.
So, we devised a week of mental health awareness around Friday 18th March, which is MHFA’s “Bring Your Whole Self to Work” day, encouraging people to not hide away parts of themselves in the workplace, and to create a space where people can be honest and talk more openly about how they’re really feeling. Whilst not a recruiter myself, I’ve worked in sales-based environments for a number of years now and I’ve always strongly suspected that there’s often a culture where everyone puts on a “game face” and in reality, are hiding struggles behind the scenes. Having been through an incredibly tumultuous few years as a collective, it felt more important than ever to highlight the importance of mental health and self-care, whilst signposting the ways in which professional help could be sought for those who need it.
Studies have shown that better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year. The 2013 Chief Medical Officer’s report estimated that the wider costs of mental health problems to the UK economy are £70–100 billion per year – 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP).¹ However, estimating this figure is very complex and an earlier study carried out by Centre for Mental Health found that, taking into account reduced quality of life, the annual costs in England alone were £105.2 billion. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that 1 in 6.8 people are experiencing mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%) however I strongly suspect that the real numbers are much higher.² Many of us have had financial worries, lost loved ones, and grappled with the uncertainty that the pandemic has created, causing us to live in a perpetual state of uneasiness and “survival mode” for a number of years.
During our Wellbeing Week we hosted a number of activities – one being “Bring your dog to work” day. Being fortunate enough to work in an office space which actively encourages us to bring our pets, the arrival of Lola the ‘Doodle was very well received – even if she did bark at the CEO when he first walked in! Pet ownership, and interacting with cute animals, has been proven to have a positive effect on mental health.
We also hosted a highly successful Wellbeing Workshop with Dr. Marion Norbrook, who gave an insightful presentation covering topics such as yoga, breathwork, burnout and resilience. One of the most mind blowing things, for me, was learning about the human microbiome (gut) and how it can affect your mental health. Did you know that 90% of your serotonin receptors are located in the gut?
We also had a charity bake sale with the £127 raised going to Student Minds, themed “What reminds you of your childhood”. Some of the fantastic contributions included rice crispie Easter “nests”, coconut macaroons, lemon drizzle cakes, and, interestingly, ribs on the bone… which tickled a few people!
We discussed in depth the themes of Burnout and Imposter Syndrome, both of which are experienced by a huge number of adults in the UK. Many people don’t even realise they’re feeling it, and how can you work on fixing something you don’t recognise you have? The amazing thing about this week is so many people came forward to say they’ve experienced these feelings, and they all thought they were the only ones.
So, what can we learn from this week? Fundamentally, it’s that we need to be having open and ongoing conversations about mental health. We need to be honest about the bad days and celebrate the good. Talking is the first step to healing and getting better.
The work we’ve done this week, and the feedback we received, will help to shape MRG’s Wellness Action Plan, and hopefully the resources will be used by our colleagues to improve their daily lives. When you’re feeling your most confident, content self, you project that energy into the world, which in turn creates more positives. That’s what we’re ultimately aiming for, an inclusive and healthy workplace for people to bring their whole selves.
² Figures within this paragraph retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-mental-health-work