Meet our Guest Blogger Anastasia Vinnikova, Junior Recruiter and Mental Health Network Co-Chair at the Bank of England and also Member of the Commission for Equality in Mental Health. Anastasia is incredibly passionate towards ending the stigma surrounding mental health and talks about the importance of workplace wellbeing.
The below is Anastasia’s own personal perspective rather than the view of her employer.
You can find out more about Anastasia via LinkedIn.
Productivity at work
Personally, I think that it is particularly important for people to remember that if they do not look after their own wellbeing (both physical and mental), they won’t be as productive at work. Remote and flexible working can be a fantastic, modern tool to allow individuals to work in a way that suits them and their commitments outside of work, but it can also be dangerous if the balance is not right.
Just last year there was an article in the Independent (here) based on research carried out by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) which showed that 40% of people check work emails 5 times a day outside of working hours. Unfortunately, the inability to ‘switch off’ can be stressful and exasperate already existing mental health issues – not least anxiety.
It is tempting to think that by checking emails outside of working hours or on days off you might lessen your workload when you return to work, but by inducing poor well-being in this way, you won’t be at your best when you do return to work because you might be feeling the effect of, for example, anxiety.
The link between physical and mental health
I also feel that sometimes we forget the link between physical and mental health. It might seem like a cliche but taking time to sleep properly, eat in a balanced way, and finding a form of exercise that works for you can have a significant impact on your psychological wellbeing.
It can be tempting to write off exercise because we don’t have time in a busy work schedule, or that we aren’t fans of the gym, but ‘exercise’ can be an all-encompassing term. Even taking a walk during your lunch break for 15 minutes can help clear your mind, and be a little burst of physical activity for the day, or taking the stairs instead of the lift when you’re navigating around your office. If walking isn’t your cup of tea, there are also many other types of exercise available to us, that don’t just have to be confined to the gym!
We have a great opportunity in the UK to be creative with the ways in which we exercise (from fencing to circus-themed fitness) and I’d encourage everyone to take advantage of that.
Lastly, mental health awareness isn’t as taboo anymore but sometimes people can be afraid to start those discussions nonetheless. Talking about mental health, whether its condition-specific or mental-wellbeing focussed more generally, is such an easy way for us to contribute to creating workplaces where colleagues can bring their whole selves to work. From personal experience, I can wholeheartedly say that it makes a huge difference even just being in an atmosphere where mental health is openly talked about. Even individuals who are interested in the importance of mental health might be afraid to have those discussions in the office because traditionally, that wasn’t the forum for it. However, we all have a mental health and someone who may be well now, may experience mental ill-health in the future – so it is everyone’s responsibility to get these discussions going.
Ending the stigma
I think the main awareness point that people might not realise is just how common mental ill-health is. In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year – a staggering figure (see here). Once we acknowledge how widespread mental health issues are, and the fact that we all have a mental health in the same way that we have a physical health, I think the movement towards ending the stigma will really take flight more than it already has.