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Getting out for mental health week

Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance 


Here we are, the first Mental Health awareness week since we left a year-long lockdown. While we’re not wholly out of the woods, it’s a good opportunity to pat ourselves on the back and focus on some self-care.

Indeed, with a route back to normality within sight, many of us are preparing for a new hybrid way of working, and considering the challenges which may come along with that. In this transitionary period then, it’s all the more important to take a step back, and think about your own mental health, as well of those of your workers, colleagues and team members

We hope to help you do just that, as all across the country, our local offices are running special events with a mental health focus, and we’ve specially launched a brand new free training course for managers to help them recognise when a team member is in distress, and take action to help support them.

But you don’t have to make a great effort to prioritise your mental health, it can be as simple as stepping outside, as highlighted by the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week: nature.

How leaving your desk makes you better at your job

Now that the sun’s out and the birds are singing, you can really take advantage of all the country has to offer, and getting out for even the simplest of walks can have massive benefits to your health and your work-life.

Exposure to nature has been found to increase positive feelings, creativity, and focus and to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work. According to recent research, trees and forests have a particular impact on people, impacting our cognition, mental state, and even our immunity.

Microsoft took full advantage of this fact when they installed a treehouse meeting area in their Washington headquarters, and closer to home, Adobe created a rooftop running track for their London employees to enjoy the fresh air and get the blood pumping.

What can you do?

If you don’t have the benefit of working for a tech giant however, even a simple step like having lunch in a local park, or taking a short walk through a green space, can have wide-reaching benefits. For example, staff at Hays in the UK regularly take “Well-being Walks” with their team now at lunchtime, and it has been a great introduction into working life. Stress relief is the most dramatic short-term benefits, but by introducing a bit of nature into your daily routine can help with managing anxiety, depression and a host of other mental health conditions according to mental health charity Mind.

Can’t get out? Bring it in

For millions of workers without the benefit of gardens, or who have mobility issues, getting back to nature can be a lot harder than it seems. In these situations, you have to bring the outdoors, in. Gardening is great if you have outdoor space, but an army of houseplants can also provide a relaxing and destressing environment, particularly for a home working setup where you may be sitting down for long periods of time. Office spaces can also benefit from plenty of plants and access to natural light, which has obvious benefits on mood and wellbeing for employees at work. We currently have a sunflower growing competition running to raise funds for our UK charity partner, End Youth Homelessness, with a competition specifically for those who do not have a garden, on who can grow the tallest sunflower!

What other support exists for mental health

The positive effects of nature on mental health are undeniable, but it’s not a panacea. After such a long period of uncertainty and the added stresses of Covid-19 and coming out of lockdown, you and your colleagues may need extra support.

The best way to ensure your team feels supported, is to create a workplace culture which welcomes discussion of mental health issues, and has a supportive, practical atmosphere where poor wellbeing can be addressed and corrected before the need for more drastic measures.

Communication is key to creating such a culture. Here are some things you can do:

  1. Bring mental health into normal discourse. In your internal comms, promote mental health awareness days and explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health.
  2. Create and communicate a clear mental health strategy and specific policies to ensure employees experiencing mental health problems get the support they need straight away.
  3. Establish support groups or formal schemes to encourage discussion of mental health. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to.
  4. Train mental health first-aiders, to give mental health the same gravitas as physical ailments and to offer support early. Courses are available at https://mhfaengland.org/
  5. Lead by example – you and other senior staff should be seen to take mental health days when needed, and to make allowances for your own wellbeing. This will help normalise an active approach to maintaining wellbeing and mental health.

I hope this Mental Health Week, you take the initiative and implement some mental health self-care. We also hope that you will take advantage of our range on wellbeing and resilience training, as well as our brand new manager’s course Supporting staff with their mental health, available free as part of Hays Thrive, our exclusive staff training portal. 

About this author

Karen is responsible for the UK finance recruitment business at Hays plc. With nearly 22 years of recruitment experience whilst working for this market leading global recruitment firm, Karen has a personal track record of recruiting top finance talent for business and helping people build their career.

Her knowledge covers finance appointments across a wide range of industry sectors and she is an expert in tried and tested talent acquisition methods. Karen provides strategic leadership to a team of over 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across a network of almost 100 UK offices. Extremely passionate about helping people to find the right job, she is also a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.

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