Why do people go to work? Reasons often include maintaining a quality of life, having a purpose, some even may say they actively enjoy it. However, at one time or more, most people will find it a struggle to go to work. Whether that is because the work has become a little stale, there are conflicts in the workplace, conflicts at home, a nasty manager or bullying colleague, or even a lack of interest in what they are doing. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) indicate that only 44% of 6,000 workers surveyed considered work to have a positive impact on their mental health, with 55% regularly feeling miserable, exhausted or under excessive pressure; an average employee working 5 hours a week more than they would like to.
Our time, our life, is precious and we spend more time at work than we do in many other aspects of our life, such as with family and friends. Would you rather spend all that quality time feeling sad, pressured, demotivated? Or, positive, beneficially challenged, aware of the direction in which you are headed and of your own contribution towards the success of your organisation?
Mental health and wellbeing is an increasing focus in workplaces, from the smallest ‘one-man-band’ self-employed individual, through to vast multi-national organisations. It includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing and influences how we feel, think and respond to situations, including how we respond to stress, interact with others and make decisions. The CIPD suggest that the most significant risks to employee wellbeing are psychological. Indeed, one of their recent reports found that over 1/3rd of organisations indicated that stress-related absence has increased and over one-half say they are aware of an increase in mental health issues, compared to 1/3rd in 2016. Furthermore, mental ill-health was reported to be the primary cause of over 20% of long-term staff absences in 2018, as compared to just over 10% in 2016.
For organisations, the strength (or lack) of mental wellbeing can reflect the organisational health. With poor mental wellbeing, the ability to juggle multiple tasks decreases, indeed the ability to concentrate on anything can significantly decrease, leading to it taking longer to do tasks and even be less tolerant of colleagues, clients or customers. Organisational pressures to perform could be leading to the increasing trend of ‘presenteeism’ (working when ill) and ‘leaveism’ (using holidays when unwell). This can all contribute towards a decline in organisational performance.
In contrast, an entire organisation can contribute towards positive mental health and hypnotherapists can offer support in this process by contributing to both proactive prevention and mental health enhancement programmes and by offering assistance with remedial approaches when mental ill-health arises.
Pro-active approaches can include health promotion (such as health screening, access to a gym, healthy food options and access to wellbeing and complementary therapies) and employee support (such as physical and psychological services, financial support and lifestyle services). Interestingly, the CIPD report indicated that access to complementary therapies varies according to the employment sector. Overall it was reported at 20%, with manufacturing at 17%, private sector services at 18%, public services at 26% and the non-profit sector at 21%. This is something that hypnotherapists may wish to consider when promoting their services to organisations. It is certainly reported that there are many benefits for organisations who invest in mental wellbeing, including a lower sickness absence rate, a more inclusive, healthier and positive work culture and better employee engagement and morale. This can form part of a persuasive message when liaising with organisations who may wish to engage the services of hypnotherapists.
Hypnotherapists’ contribution to wellbeing
Whether working with an isolated individual, a team, department or entire organisation, a hypnotherapist can make a significant contribution to the mental wellbeing of the staff and organisation. For example, with a stress management approach, unhealthy habits can be identified and addressed, limiting beliefs resolved and insight gained, together with conscious and subconscious change. This teaches the recipients how to work with their own mental wellbeing and it becomes a learned life skill, rather than a one-off (and potentially repeatable) applied treatment. Even something as simple as teaching staff how to relax, perhaps including the awesome benefits from self-hypnosis, can help strengthen individual and team locus of control, empowering and strengthening both individuals and those affected by their actions. Hypnotherapists can also help staff develop coping strategies to enable them to remain functioning effectively in the workplace, or for more confidently returning to the workplace after a time of absence.
Managers’ contribution to wellbeing
The CIPD report indicates that around 50% of line managers surveyed are aware of the importance of wellbeing and around 55% say it is on the agenda of senior leaders, yet only 40% of employers have a standalone wellbeing strategy. Interestingly, the report indicates that where managers consider that wellbeing is important, better morale is observed. For example, the British Heart Foundation created a ‘Live Well, Work Well’ strategy for healthy eating, physical activity, mental wellbeing and positive habit formation. The strategy was so inclusive of the workforce that even the name came from a staff campaign-naming competition.
For managers, a good starting point is to recognise the individual and collective contributions of your workforce. Whether it comes as spontaneous words, briefings, memos, events or in other forms, praise and observations of successes and achievement of milestones is something to be celebrated. This helps staff morale and help staff feel valued. A massive 32% of people in the CIPD report indicated that management style was a main cause of stress, and 60% considered it to be workload and volume of work. For example, whilst the use of technology is reported to be positively received by 74% of respondents, the negative side is that 87% struggled to switch off out of working hours.
Poor communication is also often one of the most common stressors in the workplace, whether that is poor use of language, or a lack of communication entirely. Employees are more secure and focused on their work when they know what is going on. There are many ways to increase communication within an organisation. This may be as simple as regular small team meetings and briefings, a broader team meeting to bring teams together, or even an individual discussion.
Employees’ contribution to wellbeing
We can all be wrapped up in our own world, and that can carry through to the workplace. A great way of improving the morale of your colleagues, is to treat them how you would like to be treated yourself. If you focus on the positives and what can be done, then others will feel positive around you. Another positive contribution is that of communication. Just as managers keeping staff involved and informed can help reduce stress from uncertainty, keeping managers involved helps them react more effectively. So, if you are feeling overwhelmed or pressured, it can be good to highlight this early, so that it can be addressed before it becomes an immense issue.
Whether as a manager, employee or therapist, effective communication in the workplace can have a positive influence on mental wellbeing. Although we learn to speak at an early age, as adults we can always further develop our effective strategies to inform, persuade and influence others towards beneficial change and create positive mental wellbeing in our workplace. If you’d like to learn more about how to communicate more effectively, a great place to start is my book, which is available to buy on Amazon:
We hope that this blog on workplace stress and wellbeing has been helpful to you. If you have any more questions about this topic or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks