I am a loyal employee. 

Am I depressed or anxious? – I have ups and downs but mostly I’m okay.

Am I stressed? – A bit but I seem to be able to cope.

Am I tired? – Usually but isn’t everyone most of the time?

What do I say when my boss asks me how I am? – I always tell him that I’m fine.

Am I happy at work though? – Not really, I’m bored. I’ve lost my sense of purpose in my company and have no time for my family and friends.

Am I engaged? – Not really, I try and get away with doing as little as I can because I feel so tired most of the time.

Do I feel healthy? – Not really, I don’t have time to exercise and eat whatever I can grab and eat at my desk. 

Do I think I will stay at this company for much longer? – I’ll stay for now, but I’ll keep my eye open for other opportunities. It never hurts to keep your options open.

How is the state of my mental health? – FINE RIGHT, I mean I’m not depressed/stressed/anxious or otherwise unwell? 

“Mental health” is a phrase that usually comes up in the work-place when someone is suffering with a mental illness. It is when someone has burnt-out, suffers from chronic stress or is dealing with depression that “mental well-being” is suddenly a priority. Yet are we making enough effort in organisations to consider whether employees are in OPTIMUM mental health? Are we asking not just whether staff are “okay” but whether they are happy, healthy, engaged and positive about their life and role within the organisation?

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. The World Health Organisation highlights that we should be encouraging mental well-being and not just the absence of mental illness. This prevention rather than cure approach could of course benefit employers because they would create a more engaged workforce and also prevent mental illness before it develops into something serious.

So how can employers optimise the mental health of their work force? It is impossible to change the culture of organisations over-night and it isn’t easy to adjust working hours or job roles. Employers have therefore started to look at tools and support that they can provide to employees to better able them to cope with and bounce back from stressors. Some call these tools “resilience training” others label it “capacity building” – yet irrespective of the title, the goal of the programmes created is to equip staff with skills that help them to thrive at work.

“Resilience training” or “capacity building” can sound mysterious and confusing – so what in practical terms does it actually involve? Several studies have demonstrated traits and skills that can optimise mental health and boost an individual’s resilience or capacity to withstand stressors. byrne•dean has recently developed a programme which is based upon this science and is designed to optimise the mental health of employees. Our programme provides employees with practical steps that they can take day-to-day to improve their mental health, including guidance on:

- how to use cognitive behavioural therapy to improve mental health;

- optimising sleep, based on the science of sleep – so that employees are less tired at work;

- brain health and how to optimise brain function, including learning, memory retrieval and critical thinking;

- foods to eat to boost mood and energy levels, including the steps to make dietary changes stick;

- how to avoid legal and illegal substance abuse; and

- how to best manage a large workload.

How can employers benefit from seeking to create a workforce that is in optimum mental health?

- Employee retention - a happier work-force will result in reduced staff turnover and lower spend on recruitment fees.

- Improved productivity - less sick days taken due to stress, anxiety and depression.

- Boosted morale - happier employees will work better with each other and the more senior members of the team, improving the working environment and job satisfaction.

- Reputational benefits - your organisation will become known as one which invests in the happiness and health of its employees.

- Profitability - employees will feel a sense of belonging to your organisation and a commitment to progress the organisation's goals.

If you are interested in finding out more about byrne•dean’s capacity building programme please get in touch.

So the next time you think of your mental health or the mental health of your colleagues or teams – don’t just ask yourself whether you or they are “okay”. Why should you just settle for okay when creating a work-place with individuals that are happy, engaged and productive is an option?