How Mental Health Workshops Will Help Your Office

While we focus on organising our personal goals and agenda for the coming year, many of us at work are also tasked with planning the training agenda for our offices – meetings, workshops, lunchtime talks etc. While traditionally office workshops have focussed on the technical aspects of our work, in recent years many organisations have taken a more holistic approach to helping their employees, with training in soft skills, finances, health, etc. of benefit to their employees both inside and outside work. As January is Mental Wellness Month, why not consider adding a Mental Health Workshop to the list of training opportunities in your office? In today’s Therapist Thoughts article, Centre therapist Teyhou Smyth explains why this is so important, not only for employees, but also for your organisation.

When we think about the role of “work” in our lives: it may invoke a variety of images in our minds.

We may think about the tasks of a work day, co-workers, or our feelings about the job in general.

On the surface, work may seem like its own entity in our lives. After all, it is purpose driven; we work to pay our bills, to support ourselves and our families.

Another reason we may view work as a separate dimension of our lives is that we use different skills in the workplace. We aren’t as emotionally tied to work as we are to other aspects of life, such as family, friendships and home-life.

When you think about it, most of us have a unique relationship with work.

It elicits a more professional aspect of self that is efficient, practical and more detail oriented than in any other part of life. A scheduled timeframe carved out of each day. It creates a structured daily routine more than any other part of life.

As much as we’d like to consider work as a separate unit, our emotions are tied up in our work lives, too.

So much time and effort are spent on work tasks, and so much of our identity and life purpose is derived from work. We develop relationships with our co-workers and create memories within the workplace.

The workplace is where we often experience feelings of success, failure and futility. There is a social aspect to it by default. It isn’t as compartmentalized as we’d like to think.

Why Mental Health Workshops Work

Mental health workshops may not seem like an obvious idea for the workplace, but there are many good reasons to provide them.

Investment in employees:

Since employees invest so much in the workplace, providing mental health workshops shows investment in them. People anticipate skill-related trainings that connect to the work they perform, but they probably would not anticipate a mental health workshop.

This type of deviation from the norm shows workers that the company cares about them as a person.

Workplace problem solving:

Sometimes emotions run high at work, whether it is related to deadlines, tragedy or just workplace stress. If workers have some mental health knowledge already established, it will be useful in navigating these situations.

Peaceful staff are productive:

A mental health workshop might be just the thing to raise awareness in a staff person that they need additional support. It’s amazing how invisible our emotions can become when we’re not paying attention.

Feelings may manifest into maladaptive behaviours or even simple disconnection and numbness. Providing a format to learn about mental health and help people get in touch with their thoughts and feelings is incredibly valuable.

When people begin understanding and addressing their mental health needs, and recognizing those needs in others, it will create a more compassionate atmosphere. People who feel more at peace can focus on work when they’re at work.

Improved retention and attendance:

Mental health workshops in the workplace also decrease the likelihood of people quitting their job or missing a lot of time due to mental health issues.

It may be that people begin to share their challenges with supervisors more openly so that schedules can be adjusted, or Employee Assistance Programmes can be accessed for counselling support.

When people feel understood and supported, they want to stay committed and have more loyalty to the company. It goes back to investment. If a worker observes the company investing care and assistance, they will step up and offer loyalty and dedication to good work.

It is a mutual benefit that will pay off in both morale and in finances.

Making It Work After the Workshop

It can feel intimidating to talk about mental and emotional health. Especially if it is not a subject that is regularly discussed. So, what are some ways to ensure that the workshops are useful, even after they are over?

Take a poll:

Send out an anonymous survey after the workshop. Ask people to give feedback on what was helpful and what wasn’t. Ask for subjects for future mental health workshops. Do people want to learn more about symptoms of depression and learn coping strategies? Is there an interest in anxiety management?

Keep the discussion going:

Ask employees to gather soon after the workshop and have a discussion group. What did people think about it? What were the most useful parts? How can the workplace support their needs around the subjects discussed in the workshop?

Provide additional relevant materials:

Ask the workshop presenter to offer suggestions for books, workbooks and other relevant materials that you can provide to employees who may be interested. Start a small lending library in a common area of the workplace and offer these materials for people to borrow as needed.

Offer additional resources in the library, such as a list of local counsellors, support groups and addiction specialists. Also offer supportive and uplifting materials such as inspirational reading and quotes.

It is important to make sure staff and employees feel as if the subject of mental health in the workplace isn’t a closed topic.

Each of us experience a vast array of emotions and to pretend that they are irrelevant in a work setting isn’t useful.

Make an effort to listen to the feedback regarding the workshops and find speakers that specialize in the topics people are interested in learning more about. Offering mental health workshops in the workplace is likely to bring a lot of useful discussion, productivity and satisfaction that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Workers respect a workplace that considers their needs as well as their skills. Hosting workplace mental health workshops are a perfect way to demonstrate how much employees are valued.

Following up to ensure their needs are supported with EAP and additional resources is another way to show compassion and a desire to invest in employee wellness.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website www.livingwithfinesse.com]

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