Workplace Mental Health Strategy Fundamentals: Don’t Forget to Take a Break at Work
Work stress has a significant impact on employees in any field — but that doesn’t mean that employers are powerless in reducing it. There’s a lot that leaders can do to manage stress and improve mental health resources for employees. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Calm, a leading mental health brand, is hosting a virtual event on May 9 entitled “BRB: The Working World Takes a Break.” An esteemed panel — featuring Jay Shetty, Arianna Huffington, Accenture and The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) — will discuss strategies for addressing workplace stress and mental health.
Rates of workplace stress are at an all-time high, according to Gallup, which has been measuring these trends since 2009. The pandemic was a major factor in both impacting employees' mental health and showing employers why it’s important to give workers more mental health tools. Scott Domann, chief people officer at Calm, spoke with Reworked about work stress, its impact on employees and the best practices that organizations can use to create a healthier workplace.
The Causes and Impact of Work Stress
While no job is totally stress-free, it becomes a problem when stress is consistent and overwhelming, Domann said. Stress is a risk factor for more serious mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, and it is also a risk factor for certain physical conditions, like heart attacks. Factors like heavy workload and bad bosses can create an unhealthy environment for employees.
“Low levels of stress can be okay if they motivate you and [help] you get something done,” Domann said. “But if it's persistent stress over a long period of time, that's a concern for your mental health.”
Persistent stress looks different depending on the type of employee. Domann gave the example of employees at an airport, an employer customer of Calm Business, where there is a mix of frontline and desk workers. Frontline workers must deal with challenges like security issues and customer complaints about lost luggage or delayed flights. Desk workers who work from home are more likely to experience different pressures due to lack of movement and work-life balance. These specific stress types require slightly different solutions to help employees defuse their stress levels on the job.
Give Me a Break
Studies show that allowing employees to take breaks helps them perform their jobs better. Taking a break could look different depending on the employee and what their work stress entails. In the airport employee example above, frontline workers may benefit more by sitting down somewhere quiet for their break, while desk workers might benefit from getting up and taking a walk, according to Domann.
“Contrary to popular belief, giving people a chance to take a break actually increases their productivity. It means that people can focus better. And when they're recharged, their performance is better,” Domann said. “Taking a break can be anything. It could mean tuning into tools and resources on Calm to destress in the moment, defuse panic attacks, listen to soundscape or take a stretch break.”
He also gave advice for employees who don’t work in an environment where taking a break is acceptable. “A good HR team listens to what their employees are asking for with benefits,” he said. “So if you feel like you need tools to help with managing your stress and your anxiety, you should ask your HR team.”
Workplace Mental Health Best Practices
Bad managers are one of the top causes of workplace stress, so it’s no surprise that manager training is significant for organizations to address stress in the workplace. Domann gave an example of Calm’s mindful manager training program, which teaches managers how to lead with empathy, regulate their emotions and communicate with employees in a healthier way.
“If you can regulate your emotions as a manager and not respond in a knee-jerk way, you can help create a better working environment,” he said.
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He also recommended that employees take mini breaks throughout the day. Calm developed “60-second reboots” to help people relax before a meeting or between tasks. For frontline employees, these breaks may include breathing and meditating. For people who work at a desk all day, stretching or otherwise moving around is a great use of the mini break.
Finally, it’s important to remember that creating a healthier workplace culture starts from the top, Domann said. Leaders need to practice what they preach when it comes to stress management. They should not only offer vacation time and mental health time off, but show their workforce that they’re taking this time as well. That helps individual employees feel more confident in the decision to take time off for their own mental health needs.
Check Out Calm’s Mental Health Awareness Month Virtual Event
The workplace may be a major cause of persistent stress, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t use these best practices to reverse the trend and create a safe environment for mental health.
In Calm’s upcoming virtual event on May 9, you’ll learn even more about the importance of taking a break and how HR leaders and organizations can help manage workplace stress and mental health. The event starts with a live meditation led followed by a panel of workplace mental health experts including Calm’s chief purpose officer, Jay Shetty, Thrive's CEO and founder, Arianna Huffington, Accenture’s chief health officer, Dr. Tam Brownlee, and NAMI’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ken Duckworth.
Learn more about the upcoming virtual event, “BRB: The Working World Takes a Break,” in the link below.
Participate in the Virtual Event here
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