Tag Archives: #mentalhealth

Does happiness give you the edge professionally?

Why do so many of us equate happiness with success? This is the subject of a (frankly hilarious) TED talk by psychologist Shawn Achor, that makes the astute assessment that as long as we do this, we’ll never be satisfied. Effectively, it’s because we keep moving the goalposts. If you get an amazing job, you’ll want an even better one. If you’re promoted, you want to move up again, and so on.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is, it’s unlikely to make you happy. However, the reality is that happy people are more motivated and productive. This touches on issues we’ve discussed in previous articles; for example, the notion that an understanding boss is a better manager. Often, positivity breeds productivity and happy staff are a more effective team. 

Therefore, happiness and success have a connection, but perhaps we need to reorient our perspective in order to maximise this effect. This is what Shawn calls the “happiness advantage”.

The moving goal post phenomenon

Today’s mindset is that we should be a human doing, not a human being. Persistence, tenacity and motivation are the keys to success and as long as we’re doing things, we’ll succeed. But the problem with this philosophy is that success is a constantly evolving idea, not a set goal. Therefore, the goalposts are always moving and we’re never really satisfied. 

Shawn uses an example. He applied to Harvard on a dare, and to his surprise, got in. Once he was there, he felt overwhelmed by the sense of privilege to have been accepted to such a prestigious school. However, he noticed a phenomenon around him; his fellow students also felt privileged to begin with, thus soon wore off. Instead, they were overwhelmed by the pressure to get good grades, graduate with the highest possible honours, and get the best possible job. Before they knew it, they were very stressed and certainly not happy.

So, we assume that success is the key to happiness. But our perceptions of success are always changing, so we can never reach happiness. This, Shawn says, is a problem – because happiness precedes success. In his experience, he estimates that 75% of professional successes are dictated by your optimism, social support, and your ability to see stress as a challenge, not a threat. This is because happy people are productive people – his analysis suggests that ​​your brain at “positive” is 31% more productive. Herein lies the happiness advantage.

Boosting the positive to be more productive  

Shawn goes on to explain that there are simple things you can do to flip your perception of happiness and success, and gain the happiness advantage. He suggests spending two minutes a day for three weeks thinking about optimism and success. Every day, write down three new things you are grateful for. After a while, the effects will be long term.

This is something we can do personally; but, as mentioned, optimism is also about social support. As leaders, we can do more to support our teams and make them happier. This links back to our discussion about empathy in the workplace. If we can be more encouraging, empathetic and supportive of our teams, we can gain the happiness advantage for everyone – and reap the benefits in regard to productivity.   




How to manage morale as Plan B comes into effect

Unsurprisingly, the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics regarding COVID-19 and mental health shows that the number of people reporting high levels of anxiety rose dramatically during the pandemic. For many, the introduction of Plan B restrictions feels like a retreat back into the uncertainty of the peak, so it’s essential managers are supportive as we move back to working from home.

There have been plenty of articles about remote management styles published since the start of the pandemic. However, amidst the frustration of the Plan B announcement, it’s useful to refocus and refresh on the key principles. Here, we share some tips to alleviate anxiety and maintain morale.

Take tangible steps

The key change that Plan B brings is the return of home working. While most of us have become accustomed to some sort of hybrid working arrangement, it remains difficult for managers to monitor a team’s wellbeing without seeing them in the office every day. So how can you take active steps to ensure everyone is coping?

Mental health charity Mind have designed a Wellness Action Plan that employees can complete to create their own tangible mental health toolkit. This should be a “living document” that’s updated during incremental 1 on 1 sessions with leadership. Tools like these can help managers and employees identify practical steps to cultivate a support environment.

Be flexible

It’s important to understand that in times of crisis, people have different ways of coping. While some of us might be eating healthy, exercising and meditating, the rest of us may be “coping ugly”. In regard to coping, clinical psychologist and university lecturer George Bonanno wrote in a recent article: “It doesn’t have to be pretty what you do. It doesn’t have to be considered by some expert to be the right thing to do. It just has to work.”

In the face of coping ugly, managers have to show some flexibility – which is key to resilience. The pandemic has presented many distinct challenges and we constantly have to ask ourselves what we need to do to get through it. The most emotionally intelligent people realise that each individual and unique challenge requires a different response.

Turn to reliable sources

Another way that bosses can help prevent pandemic-related stress is to discourage excessive news consumption. Nothing is more anxiety-inducing than the rolling news coverage we’ve become accustomed to, so try and persuade them to keep the Twitter and live blog tabs closed.

However, perhaps the most important point is that if you can’t resist checking the headlines, make sure your source is reliable. Information can be powerful, helping people feel informed and in control, but this is only true if the source is authentic. For example, make sure rules about Plan B measures are only communicated through reputable sources.

Spot the signs and keep spirits up

It’s important to be able to distinguish between day-to-day stress and a mental health problem. Not everyone will show obvious symptoms and these become even harder to spot when employees are working from home. In order to make sure their team is properly supported, bosses should ensure they’re cultivating an open and honest environment where people feel like they can open up. As we progress into the next phase of the pandemic, it’s essential we maintain a supportive atmosphere.



Why empathy is the new driver of productivity in the workplace

In a recent article, we reflected on why an appreciation for mental health in the workplace is the new essential skill post-pandemic. This period took its toll on everyone and care and understanding is crucial as we ease into the back-to-the-office phase. The reality is, many employees may still be feeling anxious about returning to work. Equally, many thrived working from home and may be reluctant to re-adopt the nine-to-five.

However, this isn’t merely a shift from command-and-control management styles to an approach that some may deem touchy-feely. In fact, there is a strong case that empathy in the workplace can boost productivity with various trickle-down advantages. Here, we’ll briefly discuss the possibilities.

Empathise to motivate

Empathy allows us to understand each other’s feelings and experiences. Bosses should be available to be confidants, as well as offering practical support, such as access to childcare services. This practical dimension is also opening up discussions about the possibility of four-day weeks and flexible working, especially in a pandemic context.

As employees were working from home for such a long period of time, many companies are reflecting on what can be taken from the experience. To the surprise of many, the move to home office saw a boost in productivity as opposed to a decline. Experts speculate that this added flexibility drove motivation and commitment – which is why empathy in the workplace is arguably essential to productivity and growth.

Empathy is a two-way street

When bosses are empathetic, they’re showing their team that they care for, value and understand them. When employees feel valued, they feel motivated and the organisation thrives. This is cemented by the relationship that’s created between the management and employees, which in turn, nurtures loyalty.

Employee loyalty creates a support system where the worker is prepared to go and above and beyond for their employer. In extreme examples, this can precipitate such solidarity that employees will be prepared to take pay cuts to keep the organisation afloat – something that actually came to pass during the pandemic.

Ultimately, leadership that doesn’t show empathy or those that have no employee support services in place, will inevitably experience high employee churn. Especially in the current climate, organisations with an empathy-oriented approach will have the edge when it comes to attracting talent.

Benefits that reach the customer

However, empathy isn’t only about internal affairs; experts suggest that empathy can also elevate customer satisfaction. Human interaction is integral to how we judge service quality, which naturally, is central to a business’s reputation. Motivated, happy employees radiate positivity, and subsequently, extend the organisational culture of empathy to the customer.

This is because real customer care requires empathy: you need to observe, ask questions and give thoughtful responses. It’s about looking out for other people’s needs. It goes without saying that good customer service leads to success, and ultimately, sustainable growth – further strengthening the case for empathy-driven workplace culture.



Why knowledge of mental health is the new essential skill

Mental health was an important topic during the pandemic, second only to the crisis itself. In fact, many analysts suggested that the coronavirus crisis triggered a parallel mental health pandemic, with the Agency for National Statistics reporting that depression rates had almost doubled during the crisis.

For many, one of the most significant upheavals was in the workplace. Thrust from the office to the kitchen table, couch, or home office (if you’re lucky), many people felt the mental strain of being isolated from their colleagues or juggling work and homeschooling.

This has certainly led to greater concern amongst business leaders about mental health, especially as they try to sustain morale as the crisis wears on. However, this is part of a broader trend. As we return to the office after World Mental Health Day, new research indicates that the most desirable professional skills since 2016 have involved well-being.

What the results show

The Skills Network, an independent learning provider, found that since 2016, there has been a 230% uptick in the demand for mental health-related professional skills, such as counselling, personal care, and guidance. At the beginning of 2016, these skills appeared in just 19,200 unique job postings. By June 2021, that figure had increased to 63,492.

This study was carried out to highlight the skills gap in this crucial area. Although generally thought of as part of a soft skills set, knowledge of mental health issues was found to be the 9th-most sought after hard skill, after more hands-on occupations like nursing and warehousing.

Looking closer at the findings

However, even within these hands-on skill sets there was an increased emphasis on mental health. For nursing in particular, mental health competencies were the second most requested skill on job postings, especially after the pandemic.

Turning to the business world, leaders have been urged to be more sensitive to the impact of recent events. This means that it’s more important than ever to demonstrate to employees that they’re valued and that they play an integral role in the company’s growth. This could come from a variety of actions, whether it be consistent positive feedback or more flexible working hours.

Resisting a false sense of security

Now, many businesses are reopening and getting their employees back into the office or on the shop floor. In this context, it’s easy to assume that we’re getting ‘back to normal’ and everyone is eager to get back to work. But research has found that not everyone feels the same way.

The reality is that when it comes to mental health, many will be suffering in silence and hiding the challenges they face going back to work. In turn, they’ll be met with a lack of understanding and support from management and colleagues alike. The reality is that the pandemic pushed many people to new levels of stress and anxiety. Employers must remember that some have been affected more than others.

Compassion is key

As a result, some people will need more time than others to adjust to the ‘new normal’ – and a mental health-oriented skill set will be key. Leaders and managers have to be empathetic, compassionate and understanding of people’s individual challenges. Continuing an open-door policy and offering access to mental health resources will be essential.

As winter sets in, this is more important than ever. Even though we may be through the worst of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we learn from the lessons of the lockdowns and the years prior. The conversation about mental health in the workplace has been active for some time, and in context, we need to sustain momentum.



Social distance and mental health in the workplace

COVID-19 will change the face of the workplace. As many of us return to the office, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our working environments are going to look very different. With measures such as staggered hours and breaks, socially distanced desks and enhanced hygiene measures, it’s likely workplaces are going to start to feel a bit lonely and sterile.

That’s why in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, managers need to care for employees’ mental health as much as their physical well-being. Here, we share some suggestions about creating a positive atmosphere in the socially distanced workplace.

Get the advice you need

All the advice drawn up by the four nations’ public health authorities can seem a little overwhelming. To navigate these guidelines as effectively as possible, but together a task force to design your socially distanced workplace. Include representatives from HR and outside consultancies to brainstorm how the measures will affect your team mentally.

Get connected

Even once most of your team is back on site, technology can be just as helpful in the office as it was when most of the staff were working from home. For instance, online chat tools available in Microsoft Teams and Google help staff indulge in some casual chatter that social distancing might impede. Don’t see this downtime as a productivity loss – happy staff work harder.

Be open

Configuring the socially distanced workplace will be a learning curve. Make sure that you cultivate an atmosphere of adaptability, where your team can share ideas and concerns. Highlight that your door (or inbox) is always open for queries or suggestions. Another approach would be an honesty box, where employees can share their thoughts anonymously.

Bring your team together in the socially distanced workplace

Social distancing is certainly going to change how we work. These changes won’t only be about the configuration of desks or strategically placed bottles of hand sanitiser; it’s also going to be about ensuring that staff are managing the transition mentally.

The foundation of the strategies discussed above is open lines of communication. By working together, seeking advice, investing in the right tools and creating an atmosphere of openness, management can bring a team together in spite of social distancing.