As a result of the COVID-19 crisis and systemic racial issues, mental health has emerged as an urgent priority for organisations on a global scale, and specifically when it comes to their Black employees. A 2021 report by Mckinsey & Company showed that 62% of employees consider issues related to mental health a top challenge, especially diverse employees.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 35.4% of Black Canadians experienced major psychological distress in 2020 and 34.2% had never used mental health services before. More employers are therefore finding ways to improve their company culture and implementing effective strategies to address workplace mental health issues.
As we wrap up Mental Health Awareness Month, here are a few wellness practices you should hold onto to improve your mental health.
Complete a Mental Health Audit
In a fast paced world where our minds are on constant hyperdrive, it is easy to lose sight of ourselves. Regular self check ins can help us better understand our emotions and allow us to address them. Not sure where to begin? Start with a mental health self-evaluation. This involves asking yourself the following questions; How am I feeling today? Has my mood changed over the past few weeks? Have I felt stressed/anxious recently? What made me feel this way? What are my coping mechanisms? Are they working?
Tip: Make it a goal to complete a mental health self-assessment at least once a week. A mood journal can help you keep track of your thoughts and feelings throughout the day.
It is all about work/life balance. Draw clear lines between your work-life and home-life by setting boundaries for your professional and personal obligations. Learn to leave work, at work! Know when to call it a day! As Betsy Jacobson contends, “balance is not better time management, but better boundary management.” Do you have a set time for lunch every day? How often do you check your work email outside your contracted working hours? Are your colleagues aware that they cannot contact you after work hours?
Tips: Create a work in a space that’s distinct from the rest of your home. Close your computer when you are done with work. Use separate browsers or different computers for your work and personal life.
Take Time to Unwind
Use your vacation days! Taking time off from work is vital to your mental health. Ever heard the saying, “well-rested employees are the most productive and efficient?” This statement can be backed by a study from the National Library of Medicine, which reveals that employees were in better moods and were able to sleep better following their vacations. There have also been multiple studies by scientists linking frequent vacation days to increasing productivity and even life longevity. Taking vacations can help prevent burnout, reduce stress, boost creativity and improve work-life balance and an individual’s overall mental health.
Tip: If you can, try and plan your vacation days ahead of time, this way you don’t use up all your days at once. By planning ahead you are more likely to remember to take time off and you also have something to look forward to.
Explore Your Resources
As previously mentioned, it is a new era of mental health in the corporate sphere as employers are keen on improving and advocating for wellness at work now more than ever.
As an article by Forbes points out, approximately 40% of employers expanded mental health benefits during the pandemic. Although every organisation has its own unique approach to responding to the needs of their employees mental health, some common strategies include; the adoption of mental health days, redesigned benefits, wellness webinars, 4-day work weeks, corporate mental health officers, remote work options and extra long weekends. The pandemic has pushed employers to think about mental health more, and most leaders are looking for how to prioritise employee health and wellbeing.
Tip: If your company doesn’t currently offer a mental health initiative that interests you, bring that to your employer’s attention.
A lasting legacy of the pandemic has been the shift to remote work. According to an Owl Labs study, in 2021 nearly 70% of full-time employees in the US had worked remotely and 16% of companies are fully remote globally. Consequently, working from home has had major implications on workplace relationships. Social connections are vital to the state of your mental health. As Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a Mayo Clinic psychologist explains, “socialising helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills and increases your sense of happiness and well-being.” Many organisations have implemented employee engagement strategies for remote workers such as virtual coffee breaks, increased video calls, multiplayer games and much more.
Tip: Schedule a 15 minute call with a colleague to catch up on things other than work or challenge yourself to a weekly get-to-know me call with a colleague outside your team.
Finally, Treat Yourself!
A little act of self-care goes a long way. While waiting for gratification from your employer in the form of a bonus or promotion, give yourself an occasional pat on the back for your wins. Celebrating accomplishments is crucial to maintaining emotional and mental health as it builds confidence, increases motivation and can relieve stress. Rewarding yourself does not have to be complicated, treats come in all forms. For some it might include buying yourself a gift while others are satisfied with taking an additional break during the work day or turning up your favourite song while working.