At Larking Gowen we have over 300 employees across nine locations and ensuring their mental wellbeing is a very important part of our core values.
We are training managers to support staff and identify any issues that may arise in their day- to-day lives that affect their wellbeing. All of our staff have access to a confidential, free, 24 hour support helpline covering many different services including mental health issues, family issues, gambling, financial pressures, stress, and housing, to mention just a few.
The vast majority of workplace mental health issues relate to stress, anxiety, panic and depression with poor mental health the top cause for absence in most workplaces today. Although mental health awareness is improving the stigma still remains in many workplaces – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our managers are being trained in how to approach critical conversations; they don’t diagnose, but try to identify work triggers.
While a visit to the GP can be useful, alternative support should be made available. One option may be counselling, which costs about £400 for eight sessions, much less than the cost of an employee being absent for two weeks. Flexible working arrangements could also help keep a staff member at work.
I appreciate that this is all well and good for an organisation with many employees, but what about those that are self-employed, and work on their own? Whilst self-employed people may think they are masters of their own time, and in control of their own destiny, this is often not the case. Sporadic jobs, unforecastable income, remote and lone working, travelling, pressure of deadlines and often working evenings and weekends can all take their toll.
So, with all those things in the ‘known stressor’ pile, what are we doing to balance them? For example, when work isn’t coming in, and we’ve rung around all the people on our contact list, maybe we should park work? Use the time to swim, read, run, learn, or meditate, rather than fretting and festering.
The best advice for self-employed individuals is:
- Practice self-care every day;
- Know your own signs and symptoms;
- Check in with another self-employed person;
- Have a plan if the scales start to tip away from your wellbeing.
The obvious things like diet (eat earlier, try vegetarian options), sleep (switch the phone off two hours before bed) and exercise (a long walk is as good as jogging) are not always easy, but they are important. If you eat badly, sleep fitfully and get lazy (or consistently boozy), then these are signs that you may be struggling. Take note and start talking.
Local charities can offer mental health support. Counselling is very worthwhile when the chips are really down. Consider, a cost of £40 – £50 per session is a small price to pay for your health. Always check accreditation from the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP).
Online resources may help – Mind, Time to Change and Elefriends are good. There are also some great blogs on welldoing.org.
Or try the free Headspace taster meditation sessions. These provide a very good introduction to something that can keep you calm, help you sleep, and enable you to make better decisions as we plough through this complex ‘work-life balance’ thing.
I would like to thank Bamboo Mental Health founder, Tom Oxley, for allowing me to use his words and for his input into the writing of this article.
For more information please contact me on 01473 833411 or at email@example.com.