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How brands can design workplaces for employees that are good for mental health

World Mental Health Day has helped increased awareness of mental health issues. As a result, we are more open about mental health than ever before with it becoming a natural part of the discussion in our lives – especially for Generation Z. We look at how brands can design workplaces for employees that are good for mental health.

Last week I attended a Generation Z event at Platf9rm, a co-working space in Brighton. Two sides of Gen Z were served up. The confident generation and the considerate generation. Both had me thinking about the challenges that brands have in creating workspaces that are fit for the future.

Today is World Mental Health Day. For over 25 years this global event has increased awareness of mental health issues. As a result, we are more open about mental health than ever before. This has led to more diagnoses and more challenges as to how we think about mental health. Some claim that ‘problems are on the increase’, whereas it is likely that the problem was always there – it was just never treated seriously.

World Mental Health Day 2018

This year, the theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Young people and mental health in a changing world’. One thing is for certain – we are living in a very fast-paced, changing world. We share a trillion photos each year: Nothing happens today without it being plastered on the web in seconds. Month on month, new technology and opportunities rear their heads. VR, AR, AI, 5G, 6G, Cloud, Blockchain – they are all terms we hear about, know about, and if we can get our minds around them, we know it could make a difference to our lives. But, there is always something new to learn – where to start?

And, one thing is certain, this pace of change is not going to stop. People will have to learn how to adapt. At the Gen Z event last week, Brandon Relph, shared his views on change and the new generation. Brandon is an 18-year-old CEO. He has grown up with the internet. He has known nothing but change. Living with change is what he, and others do. And talking about mental health is something that his generation has become comfortable in addressing. Openness to it and making it a natural conversation – rather than some special therapy downtime – is what is so important. Addressing mental health before it turns to mental illness.

At the same event, was Lola Ray from Brighton5, an initiative that aims to give teen girls the resilience, tools and courage to make a difference in their locality and in the world. She presented the other side of Gen Z. The generation that is all too aware that it has been consumed by the internet; that the previous generation of millennials have made plenty of errors and turned the web into a place where body-shaming, bullying and bleak loneliness can happen. She talked about a generation’s determination to learn from the past; to recognise its fallibility and to start from the bottom up, even if it is far more qualified to survive in the changing world than its older counterparts.

Together, Brandon and Lola presented a powerful generation. Attuned to their mental health and to the changing world around them. If anything, for them mental health is becoming a natural part of the discussion in their lives. By embracing the reality of mental health, they are making it a part of their lives.

Attuned to their mental health and to the changing world around them. If anything, for them mental health is becoming a natural part of the discussion in their lives. By embracing the reality of mental health, they are making it a part of their lives.

With this in mind, what can employers do to embrace mental health? And to focus attention, let’s remember that stress accounts for nearly 10 million sickness days each year.

  1. Talk about change. Offer up programmes to help employees understand how they can master change and prepare themselves for the future. Aviva went so far as to ask colleagues whether new technology would replace their jobs – and then offered help. Invest in your L&D function like never before – reskilling will be essential.
  2. Train managers to talk about mental health on a regular basis. Help them keep the debate and discussion alive so that people feel comfortable exercising their mental health.
  3. Create a variety of workspaces. There is a rush at the moment towards wide-open and shared spaces. Remember that work needs to take place in many spaces: collaborative spaces, social spaces, quiet spaces, private spaces. Design these into your workspace and encourage people to find the space that works for them.
  4. Employ, or train, more people that seek to talk about mental health before it becomes an issue. Mental Health should be seen through the same lens as Health & Safety. We would not send an engineer into a hazardous environment without regular training – why would we send an investment banker into a stressful environment without similar training?

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