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Mental health at work

Moving for your mental health: fostering an active workplace culture

Mental Health Awareness Week is a timely reminder of the significance of mental ill health in our lives. This year’s theme, "Movement: Moving more for our mental health," reinforces the connection between physical activity and our own mental health.1

According to the Mental Health at Work website:2

  • 41% of employees have experienced poor mental health, a mental health problem or mental health condition, where work has been a contributing factor.
  • 300k people lose their jobs each year due to long-term mental health problems.
  • Only 51% of people feel comfortable talking about mental health issues in the workplace.

Regular movement is essential for maintaining good mental health. Our physical and mental wellbeing are intricately linked, and taking care of our bodies can significantly contribute to preventing mental health issues.

In this article, we delve into the importance of movement for mental health and explore strategies to create an active workplace culture for a mentally healthy workplace.

The link between movement and mental health

Research consistently demonstrates the powerful impact of physical activity on mental wellbeing.3 Regular exercise releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that alleviate stress and boost mood. Additionally, physical activity promotes better sleep, reduces anxiety and depression symptoms, and enhances cognitive function. These benefits are crucial in today's fast-paced work environments, where stress and burnout are prevalent.

Creating an active workplace culture

Encouraging an active workplace culture involves integrating movement into daily operations. Here are some strategies to achieve this:

Promote breaks for movement

Encourage employees to take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, walk, or engage in light exercise. Implementing structured break times and providing designated spaces for physical activity can make it easier for employees to incorporate movement into their routines.

Offer wellness programmes

Develop wellness programmes that include physical activities such as yoga classes, walking challenges, or group workouts. Providing incentives and rewards for participation can motivate employees to prioritise movement and make it a regular part of their workday.

Flexible work arrangements

Support flexible work arrangements that allow employees to integrate physical activity into their schedules. This could include flexible start and end times, remote work options that enable employees to engage in physical activity during breaks, or dedicated time for exercise during the workday.

Create active meeting spaces

Consider incorporating walking meetings or standing discussions instead of traditional seated meetings. Walking meetings promote movement and stimulate creativity and productivity by changing the environment and encouraging active participation.

Encourage active commuting

Promote alternative modes of transportation such as walking, cycling, or public transit. Provide amenities such as bike racks and shower facilities to support employees who choose to commute actively.

Lead by example

Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping workplace culture. Leaders should prioritise their own physical activity and openly support initiatives that promote movement and mental wellbeing. Leaders can inspire employees to prioritise their health by demonstrating a commitment to wellness.

Provide resources and education

Offer resources and educational materials on the importance of movement to support mental health conditions. This could include workshops, seminars, or online resources that provide guidance on incorporating physical activity into daily routines and overcoming barriers to exercise.

Ensure you have occupational health services available for employees and information about how to access support.

By implementing these strategies, organisations can cultivate a mentally healthy workplace and an active workplace culture prioritising employees' mental and physical wellbeing. Beyond the immediate benefits to individual health, an active workplace culture can lead to greater job satisfaction, improved morale, and enhanced productivity.

The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a simple framework that offers a roadmap to achieving better mental health outcomes for people in work. Any organisation can follow a set of actions to improve and support its people's mental health.4

As we support Mental Health Awareness Week 2024, let’s commit to moving more, not only for our physical health but also for our mental wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation has produced a guide with ideas on how to move more for your mental health.5

 

Find out more on how to equip your team with essential skills to support colleagues with their mental health.

The information contained herein is based on sources we believe reliable and should be understood to be general insurance and risk management information only. The information is not intended to be taken as advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Statements concerning legal, tax or accounting matters should be understood to be general observations based solely on our experience as insurance brokers and risk consultants and should not be relied upon as legal, tax or accounting advice, which we are not authorised to provide.

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