Thursday, 2 July 2020

Why we should talk about wellbeing at work

There has perhaps never been any other time than the present when the world has been so united in crisis. Wellness at work has been a much-discussed topic for some time, but the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of people whose mental health may be affected by the work environment. With workplaces in Scotland likely to open up in the coming months, we need to talk about the new and existing issues surrounding wellness in the workplace. 

What is wellness?

Although the term 'wellness' has been around for some time, it may not be clear to everyone exactly what it is. Wellness can be described as adopting a proactive approach to encourage a healthier life – both physically and mentally. It is an all-encompassing state of health, rather than merely an absence of illness.

Why does wellness matter?

A healthy mindset is essential in order to reach your full potential and to experience a better quality of life. Factors like stress, depression, anxiety, and fear have a negative impact on how we live. Wellness helps people to realise why they are feeling these emotions and symptoms, and how to deal with them in a sensible, healing way.

Why does wellness matter at work?

We may presume that a happy workforce makes for a more productive workforce and that people who are unhappy, depressed, anxious, or become physically ill because of mental health issues are less likely to have a great attendance record. And this is backed up by a number of studies which have indicated that money spent on staff wellbeing is money well spent as it improves productivity and reduces absenteeism. 

And on a more personal level, as an employer you should want your employees to feel comfortable and happy at work.

Why do we need to talk about wellness at work?

Mental health training is not a significant part of the induction process or continuing professional development for a large proportion of line managers in the UK. This is extremely surprising considering that the Department of Health has declared mental ill health to be the biggest cause of disability in the UK. With so few employers prioritising mental health, it is imperative that business owners, managers and employees not only talk about wellness, but encourage and implement strategies to promote it.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed even further stress on the workplace with employees concerned about their safety as they work alongside others. Healthcare professionals and care workers have already been working in environments of high risk and need to be able to express their concerns and have them alleviated as much as possible. Those returning to work after being furloughed will also need reassurance that suitable measures have been put in place before their return.

Some of these essential measures, such as social distancing and regular sanitisation, may change the work dynamic, making work a less sociable environment. These changes, although necessary, could also be the cause of anxiety and stress if they are not implemented properly.

How can wellness be promoted at work?

There are many ways in which an employer can make it easier for employees and colleagues to benefit from wellness:

  • Make Covid-associated guidelines and procedures clear for all employees, preferably before they return to work.
  • Allow for homeworking if possible.
  • Allow for flexible working if possible so the workforce isn’t forced to commute during peak times.
  • Give employees opportunity to voice their concerns via online meetings, email or over the phone.
  • Give regular updates on procedures and guidelines.
  • Make the workplace a pleasant place to be with designated break areas (in-line with Covid guidelines).

Some of these physical alterations are applicable beyond the Covid crisis. For example, homeworking and flexible working can relieve unnecessary stress for all manner of employees such as those with disabilities or illnesses exacerbated by travel, and for those with childcare difficulties. It is important to create a culture where employees feel able to make requests concerning their working patterns without the fear of being negatively affected. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

How to grow your self esteem and start taking risks at work

Some might consider this a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ scenario. Which comes first? Do we grow our self esteem prior to taking risks or do we take risks to grow our self esteem? Well, if the truth be known, a little bit of both can work wonders.

I hear you saying “I’m too scared. What if it all goes wrong.” But you’ll never know what is possible until you do take risks. But, okay, let’s work on improving your confidence first.

For whatever reason, many people lack self esteem and this can act as a huge barrier when trying to progress in all areas of our lives, including work. When we lack self confidence, it can leave us with negative emotions, which can influence the path we map out for ourselves in life. Too often we opt for the easiest or simplest route as we are too afraid of failure, anxiety, and stressful situations, but does that make us truly happy? A recent study undertaken by My Confidence Matters revealed that women are affected most by the lack of confidence and it is holding them back from moving forward in their jobs.

Sometimes we lack self esteem because of past relationships, and how people have treated us in our past can have a huge effect on how we treat ourselves. Just remember that whatever other people tell you or say to you isn’t always the truth, so you shouldn’t let it dictate how you see yourself.

5 tips for improving self confidence

1. Be kind to yourself. You know that you have positive qualities and skills, they just seem to go unnoticed. Remind yourself every day – write things down or just say them to yourself – about everything you like about yourself. It might seem difficult to begin with but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll start to find more and more things that you love. Don’t forget that when you run yourself down, your body and mood are negatively affected and likewise when you recall all your good points, your body and your mood improve.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Remember that everyone is different and has their own unique traits, qualities, and skills. Not everything is always as it seems – some people are just much better at ‘bigging’ themselves up than others. This doesn’t mean you have to go around telling everyone how great you are but if you believe in yourself, then this will show in your demeanour and attitude and you’ll find that people will start to think differently about you when they see that you feel confident about yourself.

3. Surround yourself with people who boost your self esteem rather than knock it down. If you don’t already have friends or family who you can rely on, try to find a new support network. Mind has lots of peer support and Elefriends is an online community where you can meet like-minded people wanting to support each other.

4. Set yourself challenges.  Challenges will help you take steps towards growing your self esteem. For example, learn a new skill such as a language, take up a sport or do something creative and you’ll see just how amazing it feels to achieve something, no matter how small.

5. Set yourself some work goals. Make a list of all the things you’d like to achieve at work, prioritise them, and then break them down into smaller goals. If you’d like to go for a promotion at work, what steps could you take to achieving your goal?
  • Show initiative by taking on a small task without checking in with your manager first. Most bosses like to see an employee using their initiative.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills by perhaps asking a colleague to undertake a part of your project that you feel their skillset would be better suited to.
  • Speak up in meetings. Don’t be afraid to offer your opinions and accept that not everyone will agree with what you have to say but it doesn’t matter so long as they give your thoughts some consideration.
  • Is there something in the company that you feel could be done better? If so, why not address it and offer a solution to the problem. Problem solvers are often looked upon favourably.

Once you start taking small steps, the more your self esteem will begin to grow and you’ll become less afraid to take risks. Remember, not everything will always go your way or work out how you want it to but it’s having the confidence to do it anyway and not letting the outcome affect who you are that’s important.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Supercharge your performance at work

Whether you’ve just started a new job, or you’ve been in the same one for a long time, there'll be times when you feel lacking in motivation or you’re not achieving your goals. This can have a negative impact on how you feel about yourself, therefore, affecting your wellbeing. Ongoing stress or feelings of inadequacy can leave us feeling tired, anxious and even depressed.

Ways to supercharge your performance

So, what can we do to get our spark back and find the motivation to do better at work?

Listen to music

Many places of work allow their employees to listen to music either in the place of work or through headphones. Research undertaken by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information has demonstrated that instrumental music can improve your attention and increase productivity.

Stay healthy

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that eating healthily and keeping physically fit helps our bodies and minds deal with stress better. There are certain types of foods that can improve our focus and boost our mental energy. Water, fish, seeds, berries and vegetables are great brain foods which will aid concentration.

Get plenty of sleep

Although it might be tempting to get as much sleep as you can, too much sleep can almost be as detrimental to our health as not getting enough sleep. It’s important that we do get quality sleep though, so there are a few measures you can take to help with getting a good night’s sleep:

Make sure your bedroom is dark at night.

  • Don’t drink too much before bedtime.
  • Don’t watch television or look at a screen for an hour before you go to bed.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try to get between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night.

Keep learning

No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are in your line of work, there is always something new to learn. Many employers will pay for staff training so long as it is beneficial for your job, so consider a course that will add to your skillset and knowledge.


This is a great way to focus and help you achieve your goals at work. Whenever you visualise situations with positive outcomes, you're creating neural pathways in your brain that will help you achieve your goals in the future. Find out more about the impact of visualisation on the brain in this study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.


Practising meditation daily, either at home or in your lunch break at work, can increase levels of concentration which, in turn, will make us much more productive in the workplace. Meditation can also help us cope better with stressful situations, so we worry less and become happier, therefore improving our working relationships with others.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Staying positive through collaboration

There are many aspects to creating a successful work environment, but research shows that collaboration can play a huge part. A study undertaken by researchers at Stanford University in 2014 found that collaboration (even when physically apart) generates higher levels of engagement as well as a higher success rate. It seems even just feeling part of a team working towards a common goal is enough to increase interest, enjoyment and productivity in the task. 

Why is collaboration important in the workplace?

There are several reasons why collaboration plays an important part within any business:

  1. Firstly, it can reduce monotony. While some people might prefer to work alone, it’s beneficial to work with others on certain occasions to reduce the tedium and repetitiveness. It can be easy to fall into a habit of wanting to work alone but in the long run this can lead to boredom, apathy and a lack of motivation. If you continue to work alone for long periods of time, it could begin to affect your mental wellbeing and positivity.
  2. When working alone, you are also less likely to challenge yourself as it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Working collaboratively with colleagues can ignite healthy competition, which means you will push yourself harder to achieve results, and this will also give you a greater sense of achievement.
  3. Working in a team is a great way to inspire each other. Activities such as brainstorming can spark your imagination and make you think in more positive ways. When you’re inspired, you begin to feel more motivated, passionate and positive about the task at hand.
  4. Working alongside others also allows you to share the burden of your job. Whether that’s talking about your worries or being able to delegate a task to someone who’s better equipped to do the job, it will certainly lighten the load and ease some of the pressure. With less to worry about, you’ll start to have a more positive outlook.
  5. Another benefit of working collaboratively is being able to share your knowledge. Unlike working alone, you can teach each other new skills that you wouldn’t have otherwise gained. This can save you a lot of time trying to figure something out for yourself and by sharing systems, you’ll start to see much more positive results. This is not only advantageous for the company your work for, it’s good for your own development too.
  6. There’s nothing better than experiencing a positive team spirit that not only brings everyone closer together on a work level, but also on a more personal level too. You can help each other to remain focused and positive during challenging times and offer support when it’s needed. Also, you can share the success with your colleagues and feel proud of being part of a team.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Ten ways to motivate staff

One of the most important aspects of managing a business is keeping your staff motivated, particularly at the moment. Without motivation, the work environment (whether real or virtual) will soon become toxic and employees’ wellbeing will be affected. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that if your staff are feeling unappreciated, stressed and unhappy, they are less likely to perform to their full potential and you risk losing much-needed employees.

Gallup conducted research into performance management and found that “only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work”. With this in mind, there are many opportunities for employers to introduce ways to motivate their staff.

Many of us don’t just want to earn a living, we want personal development, appreciation, respect, rewards and, most of all, we want to be happy. By putting the following ideas into practice, you can inspire and motivate employees to work harder, which will then create a happier and more productive workplace.

Ideas for motivating staff

  1. Use incentives to encourage staff to hit their targets, such as bonuses, gift cards, or an early finish.
  2. Provide positive feedback on a regular basis either in the form of a monthly appraisal, personal email or recognition in a staff meeting.
  3. Ensure your employees have the proper equipment they need in order to do their job to the best of their ability and with ease. There’s nothing more frustrating than a slow PC or faulty machinery. 
  4. Run an 'Employee of the Month' scheme and perhaps create a wall of fame where the best performing staff will gain recognition among their colleagues.
  5. When normality resumes, organise social activities such as bowling, a day at the races or a work’s party. But in the meantime, you can organise online social activities such as an online quiz or a virtual group run. It’s important for people to feel included and part of a team to create a positive environment.
  6. Offer flexible working hours or allow staff to continue working from home from time to time if they have other responsibilities such as caring for children or an elderly parent.
  7. While dressing up may be appealing as an alternative at the moment, Dress Down Friday is a fun way to end the week and a slightly earlier finish to the working day always seems to go down well with employees. However make sure people know if there are any rules about how they should dress, otherwise suddenly telling staff that they're not allowed to wear jeans, for example, may make people unhappy to participate. 
  8. Brighten up the workplace with a fresh coat of paint, leafy plants or vibrant artwork. A study by the University of Massachusetts revealed that art in the workplace can reduce stress, increase creativity and productivity, and enhance morale.
  9. Offer staff training and room for growth in the company. If an employee is able to work towards a promotion with an increased salary through personal development, they are much more likely to feel motivated and work harder to achieve a goal that is in sight.
  10. Provide free healthy snacks and drinks such as fresh fruit, herbal teas and purified water. Healthy food and hydration can increase energy levels, improve mood and keep the brain alert.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

How practising empathy can create a better work environment

No matter what kind of industry you work in, the chances are there will be times when work colleagues clash, emotions run high and stress levels go through the roof. Spending so much of our time (whether in person or online) with work colleagues is sure to put a strain on our relationships from time to time.

So, how can we improve our working relationships and what can we do to create a more positive work environment? In Denmark, empathy classes are a part of the curriculum, teaching children from the ages of 6 to 16 how to empathise with others and help to solve each other’s problems collaboratively. Although this method might not necessarily work in an adult workplace, by practising empathy in other ways, we can create a better environment.

The three types of empathy

Psychologist Daniel Goleman believes there are three types of empathy: compassionate, cognitive and emotional. 

  1. Cognitive Empathy – Being aware of how someone is feeling or what they're thinking by understanding what other people are experiencing emotionally or mentally on an intellectual level. For example, you recognise when someone is feeling sad even though you might not actually feel their sadness.
  2. Emotional Empathy – Physically feeling someone else’s emotions. Perhaps a loved one is going through a lot of pain which creates an emotional response from you such as crying. 
  3. Compassionate Empathy – As well as understanding someone’s feelings on an intellectual level and becoming emotionally involved, compassionate empathy means that you want to help the person.

By showing all three types of empathy with the people we work with, we are able to create a sense of trust between one another and connect on a deeper level. In a work environment, you might find that different situations require a different type of empathy, so it’s important to recognise when to understand, when to feel, and when to help.

The American website Businessolver delivered a Workplace Monitor Report in 2017 which detailed how empathy in the workplace impacts on the productivity of employers.

Incorporating empathy into the workplace

There are many ways you can incorporate empathy into the workplace:

  • Undertake surveys and questionnaires so you can understand employees better.
  • Listen more to colleagues and ask more questions.
  • Shadow a colleague in another role so you can observe their working day.
  • Try to establish facts before making assumptions about a situation.
  • Organise social activities once a month to allow workers to get to know each other on a more personal level.
  • Encourage group lunches to promote inclusion.

In 2018, HMRC undertook an empathy experiment to discover how they could improve relationships at work, the results were very interesting.

Working in an environment where there’s little or no compassion between employees and employers can heavily impact on a person’s mental health. Making a few relatively small changes that encourage staff to practise empathy can make a huge difference to the work environment and people’s wellbeing.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Ways to tackle sexual discrimination at work

Even though there is legislation in place to prevent sexual discrimination in the workplace, unfortunately, there are still many cases where this occurs. Sexual discrimination comes in many different forms and can affect both men and women. In many instances, it is considered to be harassment, victimisation and bullying. This kind of behaviour can be extremely upsetting to the person involved and can have a negative and detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing.

As an employer or employee, it’s important to recognise when sexual discrimination occurs, deal with it appropriately and put systems into place that will prevent it from happening in the future.

What is sexual discrimination?

Although it may come under many different guises, here are some examples of the types of sexual discrimination you might experience at work.

  • Different rates of pay for male and females doing the same job.
  • Employing someone based purely on their sex.
  • Being made to wear specific clothing that is associated with being male or female. For example, if women are made to wear skirts and heeled shoes at work.
  • Being made redundant or dismissed because of your sex.
  • Training or specific roles within the company only being offered to one sex.
  • Refusing flexible working hours to enable a parent to take their child to school.
  • Comments about someone’s appearance.
  • Sexist remarks or jokes.
  • Sexual harassment such as inappropriate physical advances or verbal suggestive remarks, and offensive comments related to a person’s sex.

The Independent reported on a recent study undertaken by researchers from the University College of London, that women who have been subjected to sexual discrimination are more likely to suffer from depression as a result, and 26% reported psychological distress.

As an employee experiencing sexual discrimination, it is important to tackle the issue either directly with the person involved, your boss, or a member of the company’s HR team. We understand this may seem like a daunting subject to broach and you might be worried about the consequences, however, Citizens Advice can provide you with further guidance.

Ways to deal with sexual discrimination

  • Keep a record of any incidents, making sure you document the date and specific behaviour or comments.
  • Make the person involved aware that you find their comments or behaviour offensive, it makes you feel uncomfortable and you would like them to stop.
  • Speak to someone in HR or someone in authority at work. 
  • Get advice from ACAS or Citizens Advice.

If the sexual discrimination continues or is not dealt with, you may have to seek legal advice.

As an employer, it is vital that you put procedures into place to prevent sexual discrimination in the workplace. You can also get further information and advice from ACAS about how to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination and victimisation.

Helping people who are depressed or with other mental health issues as a result of discrimination

Providing an opportunity for employees impacted by discrimination to talk to a trained therapist about their experiences and feelings, can help them continue to work, or get back to work as soon as possible. 

First Psychology Assistance provides a range of services for organisations and businesses including online counselling and psychological therapy. For further details visit our website. We also provide bespoke and off the shelf training solutions to support mental health at work.