We know that spending time with loved ones, planning enjoyable activities, or simply just resting at home, can be beneficial to everyone’s mental health. So as a key part of the wellbeing strategy at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England we provide all staff with two wellbeing weeks per year – one in the summer and one in the winter.
Put simply, wellbeing weeks are designated periods of time-off that employees can use to relax and recharge.
With the Centre for Mental Health forecasting that an estimated half a million more people will experience a mental health difficulty over the next year as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic, we believe prioritising staff wellbeing is more important than ever and should be at the heart of every organisation’s wellbeing strategy.
For us having organisation-wide wellbeing weeks guarantees that our teams will have uninterrupted time off work. When the whole organisation closes for a week, it reduces people’s temptation to check emails, answer calls, or check in on various tasks and projects, and therefore cultivates a proper sense of downtime. It also means that staff don’t have to come back to demanding ‘to-do’ lists or an influx of emails from internal colleagues, which can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
Planning ahead to make wellbeing weeks possible
At MHFA England, we do provide advance notice and have support plans in place, but it is fair to say they are not overly complicated. Our Clients and Instructor Community support our approach and we provide advance notice for these moments so they can order materials and book courses before we close for the week.
Offering employees additional time off can be a catalyst for better productivity, engagement and dedication to the organisation. Research shows one in six workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time, and so implementing a wellbeing week for the entire organisation gives employees the chance to step away from work and their usual routine from time to time.
Having a good work-life balance plays a key part in avoiding work-related stress, burnout, and poor mental health in general. When given the time and space to attend to their personal needs and focus on wellbeing, employees can better manage their priorities when they return to work. We encourage our staff to share their plans before each wellbeing week, this helps us to stay connected and to encourage everyone to think about scheduling time for self-care.
Prioritising wellbeing more widely
While we encourage organisations to consider providing a wellbeing week for their employees, it is important to remember that this is only one part of an effective wellbeing strategy. The only sustainable approach to employee wellbeing is to take a whole organisation approach, where attitudes filter down from leaders and are backed up with policies and procedures.
We know that building and implementing an effective wellbeing strategy is unique to each organisation, it may not be possible to provide wellbeing weeks but we encourage you to consider putting wellbeing days in your strategy – this does have a significant business benefit and is an excellent way to make sure employees feel cared for in a world full of pressure and stress. Allowing staff to take time off solely to support their mental health and wellbeing will help to promote healthy performance across the whole organisation and will benefit your people and your business in the long term.
During these unprecedented times, employers need to be cognisant that mental health is just one element of wellbeing alongside others such as physical, financial and emotional wellbeing, which are all connected in a whole-person approach. The Thriving at Work report sets out six ‘mental health core standards’ – a set of actions which employers can use to build the mental health element of their wellbeing strategy.
MHFA also have a number of tools to help check on ourselves and to connect and support each other, including our guidance on supporting our mental health while working remotely, supporting the mental health of People of Colour and Black colleagues, and our Empower Half Hour toolkit including a range of mental health webinar topics.
If you like this you may like:
- A wellbeing guide for comms professionals
- How to support staff wellbeing during Covid19
- Four focus points for strengthening team wellbeing
Image: Tim Foster on Unsplash