Supporting Employee Mental Health

Part 2: Managing Emotions & Behaviours.

At a glance

Welcome to the second of a two-part White Paper, where we explore some of the key trends in areas of wellbeing during the pandemic and how, equipped with these insights, employers can do their best to support their employees.

The last couple of years have been chaotic, to say the least—thrown into completely new circumstances, both organisations and individuals were left grappling with the situation, not knowing what to do or how best to cope. This year, whilst the challenge remains ongoing, there is seemingly an end in sight.

Naturally, our thoughts are now turning to post-pandemic life—what will it look like? Will we keep some of the approaches that we may have once seen as a temporary measure (remote working, for example)? What will returning to some semblance of ‘normality’ feel like?

With still uncertainty remaining, it’s more important than ever to be guided by two things: data measurement and a real care for people’s wellbeing. That’s why we decided to share these insights from our latest research—so that you can make decisions from the most informed place, on findings that reveal where people are struggling the most and need your support.

The insights contained in this paper paint a very clear picture—one of employees dealing with stress and anxiety, and struggling to take care of their basic wellbeing needs. Keep reading for an introduction to the research and the headline findings, before delving in deeper to explore the focus areas of this paper: the emotions experienced by employees, and the behaviours that people are using to care for their wellbeing, including actionable steps you can take to support these areas.

Jump to the stuff that matters most...

About People Matter
The Science
Introduction to the Research
High Level Findings
Managing Emotions
Tips for Managing Emotions
Managing Behaviours
Tips for Managing Behaviours
Where do we go from here?
Breaking Bad Recorded Workshop


About People Matter

We combine leading human understanding and technology to design wellness solutions that help people and organisations thrive.

For the individual we have an app, Okina which provides personal insights for the individual to better understand their current state of wellbeing, and how to either improve or maintain this.

For the organisation there is Okina Care, we have developed our cultural analytics platform that delivers deep insights from across the organisation, giving real time access to identify areas of concern and create specific interventions where and when it’s required the most.

Unique to People Matter, our Digital Self technology provides an in-depth view of how individuals' digital working environment affects their wellbeing.

If you would like to find out more about how your current and future wellbeing strategy can be supported through our innovative technology, please check out the website or get in touch.


The Science

At the core of our work is our leading behavioural science and psychological research. This has lead to our deep belief that when we understand what makes us tick and are able to influence our social environments to be nurturing, we humans are inherently proactive with our potential.

By providing a framework we can enable both organisations and individuals to develop a mind-set, language and understanding into mental health.

The framework also provides a structure for teams and managers to have more open and objective conversations, through better understanding and awareness.

To find out more you can access for free further information that will help provide a better understanding into the meaning behind these different constructs and their influence on the psychology of positive mental wellbeing and resilience.

View download pack


The Research

The findings we outline in these white papers come from a 2020 survey of 956 working individuals aged 18+, who were working full- or part-time (minimum 21 hours/week). The majority of respondents were located in the UK, and the breakdown by gender in the sample is as follows: 52.5% identifying as male, 46.7% as female, 0.7% as not wishing to disclose and 0.1% as non-binary/other.

The survey assessed the pressures people were experiencing, the positive factors in their environment, their emotions and their behaviours. These areas correspond to the four key areas of the scientifically validated model that People Matter uses to measure wellbeing: Pressures, Boosts, Emotions and Behaviours.


High-Level Findings

Below are the key areas of concern identified from the research we conducted during 2020 and examined across the different constructs within the whole PEBB model:

Boosts

People have too much to do in too little time, with 40% saying their level of pressure is unhealthy
People are lacking support in their lives, with 24% of respondents feeling no sense of belonging

Emotions

Behaviours

Many are battling with anxiety and feel unable to control their worries: 32% feel "trapped by anxiety"
People are struggling to find time to rest and switch off: 49% don't have time to look after themselves

Pressures



With 24% of our sample reporting feeling ‘completely burnt out’, and 40% feeling concerned that they are not coping well, there is a clear and urgent need to learn how best to support employees and to act on this without delay.

Our hope is that the insights and suggestions contained in this paper will serve as a guide to inform how you care for and support those in your organisation, highlighting the most pressing areas to address. We would advise seeing these as a starting point, from which you may then want to go on to explore further the specific needs within your particular organisation.


Diving in deeper: Emotions & Behaviours

The rest of this paper explores in greater detail the remaining two overarching areas: Emotions and Behaviours.

If you haven’t yet read Part 1 of this white paper series, you can find that here for an exploration of the first two elements—Pressures and Boosts.

Where Part 1 focused largely on the external influences that can have an impact on people’s wellbeing, Part 2 is more about looking at the self—turning inwards and exploring ways that individuals can be encouraged to best care for themselves.


Managing Emotions

What do we mean?

Within the People Matter model, ‘Emotions’ refers to the level of positive and negative emotions and energy that an individual feels day-to-day.

A key aspect of this which came up as highly significant in our findings is what we measure as ‘Calm’ – this relates to how relaxed an individual feels, and low scores on this correspond to being highly anxious and/or stressed.

Read on for more detail on how this is affecting people. Another area that we measure in the Emotions area is sense of connection – does an individual feel connected to those around them, or disconnected and lonely? Similarly, do they feel a connection with their work, or are they feeling disengaged and detached?

‘Emotions’ also looks at the extent to which someone feels a sense of accomplishment in their life, the overall balance of positive compared to negative emotions they are experiencing, and the extent to which they feel engaged and motivated, experiencing a true sense of ‘flow’ in what they do.


Why is it important?

Managing Emotions is crucial both for the health and wellbeing of individuals and also for the success of an organisation. Stress, anxiety, and other negative mental states such as depression and burnout, can be highly distressing for the individuals experiencing them.

Doing what you can as an employer or manager to support employees at work can minimise the chance that they end up dealing with these issues.

And as with all aspects of wellbeing, healthier, happier individuals make for more engaged, creative and productive employees—not to mention the obvious reductions in days off due to stress or poor mental health.


Our findings in detail

Dealing with anxiety...
34% feel trapped by anxiety
35% feel unable to control worrying
41% have trouble relaxing

...other emotions
32%
of people haven't felt close to others recently
31% of people feel lonely
53% of people feel highly self-critical and have a lack of accomplishment
31% of people feel bored at work (flow)
40% of people find it hard to stay positive, lacking optimism

Tips for Managing Emotions

Organisations & Leaders

Make sure formal support is available.

When things get too difficult to deal with, employees need to know that there is professional support available. Whether that’s in the form of free counselling services, an Employee Assistance Programme or somehow else, be sure to make these services known to everyone and raise awareness of how to access them.

Ask for input.

Provide opportunities for employees to offer feedback and suggestions on what you can do to best support their mental wellbeing. This is the simplest way to make sure you don’t waste time, money and effort in creating a wellbeing programme or intervention that doesn’t actually address the needs of the people it is aiming to support.

Surveys can become overwhelming so organisations need to find multiple channels of gathering input

Whilst surveys are a great way of gaining input, they can become overwhelming for employees if they are solely relied upon and if employees feel there isn't an exchange of value for their input. Organisations need to find other ways to gather input, such as setting up working groups or gathering input from Mental Health First Aiders/Wellbeing Champions.

Using data to also inform decisions is a really effective way of gaining continuous input and using solutions such as Okina, can help organisations move beyond traditional survey methods.

Measure and monitor wellbeing.

Getting a clear picture of the current state of your employees’ wellbeing is the first step in knowing how to improve it. If you don’t know where the issues lie and where people need support, you risk missing the mark with any efforts to improve things.

Ongoing or regular monitoring of wellbeing also allows you to evaluate the effects of any changes you make and ensure that you are targeting the right areas effectively.

Assessment of employee wellbeing should of-course be carried out anonymously and in a way that ensures no individual’s data is identifiable.

Check out our free How to Measure Mental Health at Work Guide & Toolkit


Managers

Get talking.

As a manager, you can play a part in normalising conversations about wellbeing and how people are feeling. If you are comfortable doing so, being open and honest about your own ups and downs can be a powerful way of creating an atmosphere in which individuals feel safe to share their own emotions.

Be sure to avoid pressuring anyone into sharing more than they are comfortable to, however.


Connections

Whilst relationships between people can’t be forced, you can still create the opportunities for employees to bond with each other. There’s no need to overthink this—something as simple as going out for the occasional team lunch can be a great catalyst, especially if your team has been working remotely throughout the pandemic (and providing it’s safe to do so, of course).


Raise awareness of formal support.

Make sure your team members know where to turn if they want to seek any formal support that may be on offer in the organisation, such as counselling. Try to make information on how to access such services readily available, so that someone could access it without having to ask.

Team Check-in & Conversation Starters

These simple questions can provide you with a high-level indication of how your team is doing in this area. People can be asked to respond on a simple rating scale for each question, such as:

Green going well
Amber okay, could be better
Red a serious issue

Questions to start you off...

   Does your work cause you anxiety?
   How would you rate your current stress levels?
   How motivated and engaged do you feel at work?
   To what extent do you feel connected to your colleagues?
   How much do you feel a sense of accomplishment from your work?

From this point, you can open up discussions based around the questions above, focusing on learning more about anything that’s mostly been rated as Red or possibly Amber too.

Ask your team for input into how such issues could be improved—they’ll likely appreciate the chance tohave their voices heard. You can then refer back to the previous page for ideas on what actions and changes might be helpful to implement—although bear in mind this list is not exhaustive.

Where appropriate, you could also provide relevant advice to team members using the ‘Tips for Individuals’ below.

For a full, detailed assessment of Emotions and other areas of your team’s wellbeing, get in touch with us to find out how you can use Okina in your organisation.

Advice for the Individual

The following quick tips are intended to help individuals to think about howthey can take control and manage their Emotions.

Reach out to others.

Connecting with others (safely, of course) is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your wellbeing. Just remember not to put too much pressure on yourself to socialise – we aren’t as used to it as we once might have been, so try to pace yourself.


Stay curious.

See if you can approach your emotions with curiosity – step back and explore why you are feeling the way you are – if it is more negative than you would like, what needs to change?


Seek support when you need it.

Everyone deals with pressure differently, so find whatever it is that helps you to unwind and restore your energy, and make sure that’s a priority in your life.


Restore your energy.

Especially if work is a source of stress or anxiety for you, it’s important to find ways to relax and recharge your batteries in your free time – however that looks for you.


For a full, detailed assessment of Emotions and other areas of your team’s wellbeing, get in touch with us to find out how you can use Okina in your organisation.

Find out more


Managing Behaviours

What do we mean?


Self-management behaviours relate largely to an individual’s way of working—do they set boundaries between their work and personal time? Are they managing to switch off from work and from technology more broadly? And are they able to work in a way that allows them to play to their own personal strengths?

Personal care behaviours, on the other hand, relate more to an individual’s personal life and choices—the extent to which they are managing to take good care of themselves. This includes things like physical vitality—the basics of food and exercise, and rest—the quantity and quality of sleep as well as short and larger breaks from work.

Within the People Matter model, ‘Behaviours’ refers to the personal behaviours that boost an individual’s energy and wellbeing. We split this into two categories: self-management behaviours, and personal care behaviours.

Do employees feel able to say 'no' when they need to?

It also covers how mindful, present and aware someone is in their day-to-day life, and the extent to which they feel able to truly be their authentic self and act in line with their own values and personality.


Why it’s important

Finding ways to optimise the Behaviours that employees engage with in their personal and professional lives has real benefits, again for both the wellbeing of the individuals and also for the success of the organisation.

Personal care behaviours, such as being active and having time to spend on hobbies, all support an individual’s mental health and wellbeing — which, as we’ve covered, has a positive knock-on effect on the person they are at work.

If someone isn’t able to switch off from their work, however, or isn’t managing to maintain a decent work-life balance, these valuable personal care behaviours simply aren’t going to happen. So helping employees to set boundaries and find ways to switch off is a crucial part of supporting their wellbeing.


Our findings in detail

Many people are struggling to switch off from work...

55% feel that work is dominating their life
53% find it difficult to stop thinking about work  
35%
reported feeling like a workaholic
65%
said they say ‘yes’ to too many things

71% feel addicted to technology and 68% find themselves mindlessly checking their phones

People are also struggling to find time to take care of themselves...

49% feel they don’t have time to look after themselves properly
54% have stopped doing things they love
27% are not taking any holiday time off work
44% feel they don’t have time to be mindful
38% don’t spend time outdoors daily
64% are concerned about their physical health



Tips for Managing Behaviours

Organisations & Leaders

Enable people to disconnect.

Consider implementing policies that make it easier for people to switch off from work (for example, no meetings after a certain time, no emails or messages after a certain time, no expectation to be ‘online’ or available outside of work hours). This will enable people to turn up to work feeling refreshed and motivated each day, rather than exhausted and disengaged.


Encourage time off.

Remind employees of their holiday allowance and encourage them to make the most of it and book time off. Even during times when travel is restricted, we can all benefit hugely from a ‘staycation’ or a long weekend simply relaxing at home.


Managers

Promote boundary-setting.

Encourage team members to set appropriate boundaries for themselves that support their wellbeing—perhaps those that help them to switch off from work in the evenings and weekends, for example, or during their lunch break.


Take an interest in people’s lives outside of work.

Discussing personal hobbies and other interests with your team can help to encourage people to spend time on themselves in ways that will benefit their wellbeing – conversations may even inspire someone to take up a new hobby or reignite a neglected passion!


Experiment with different approaches.

Consider trying new ways of doing things that help to create time away from screens—for example, holding walking meetings in the local area for any conversations that don’t need to take place in front of a computer. Do be mindful of the diversity within your team and make sure that your choices aren’t going to exclude anyone.


What unspoken expectations are you creating for employees?

Think twice before you send an email or message outside of working hours. No matter what the official policy is, people will feel obliged to be online during their free time if they know that other people are.

If you personally prefer to write emails outside of standard work hours, try scheduling them to be sent the next working morning. Especially avoid booking in meetings after hours, unless there is a true urgent and important need for it and it is communicated ahead of time as far as possible.


Are you demonstrating switching off and resting yourself?

Demonstrate setting and respecting your own boundaries around switching off from work, as well as taking healthy breaks during the day and taking holiday time off too. This will set a positive example and encourage others to do the same, to protect their free time and in turn their wellbeing.


Team Check-in & Conversation Starters

These simple questions can provide you with a high-level indication of how your team is doing in this area. People can be asked to respond on a simple rating scale for each question, such as:

Green going well
Amber okay, could be better
Red a serious issue

Questions to start you off...

  Do you feel able to switch off form work during your free time?
  How do you feel about your current work-life balance?
  Are you getting enough rest at the moment?
  How happy are you with the amount of time you spend on activities that are good for your health and wellbeing (exercise, for example)?
  How satisfied are you with your relationship to technology at the moment?

From this point, you can open up discussions based around the questions above, focusing on learning more about anything that’s mostly been rated as Red or possibly Amber too.

Ask your team for input into how such issues could be improved—they’ll likely appreciate the chance to have their voices heard. You can then refer back to the previous page for ideas on what actions and changes might be helpful to implement—although bear in mind this list is not exhaustive. Where appropriate, you could also provide relevant advice to team members using the ‘Tips for Individuals’ below.

For a full, detailed assessment of Behaviours and other areas of your team’s wellbeing, get in touch with us to find out how you can use Okina inyour organisation.


Advice for the Individual

The following quick tips are intended to help individuals to think about how they can increase the positive Behaviours in their lives.


Communicate your boundaries.

Make life easier for yourself by being clear to others on what your boundaries are. When are you contactable and when are you offline? How long should people expect to wait for a reply to an email?

This might mean having an honest conversation with a colleague, or something simple like writing your working hours in your email signature.


Introduce more self-care.

Set yourself one self-care activity to focus on bringing into your life. Perhaps some form of exercise, or an activity that brings you calm and relaxation—anything that you think will support your personal wellbeing.


Address your phone usage.

If you are unhappy with your relationship with your phone, consider exploring ways to reduce your dependency on it. There is a myriad of methods and suggestions out there for ways to cut down your screen time, social media use, and so on.


Seek support when you need it

Formal support services are there for a reason—if you’re struggling or going through a tough time, consider finding out about what’s available to you and how it could help.


For a full, detailed assessment of Behaviours and other areas of your team’s wellbeing, get in touch with us to find out how you can use Okina in your organisation.

Find out more


Where do we go from here?

The need to better support employees as we move forward through 2021 is clear. Action is required now, proactively creating positive change before a real crisis point is reached.

Our hope is that these papers and the suggestions within them will serve as a valuable starting point for organisations to understand the key areas of need and implement the most appropriate strategies as a result. It is also important to stress the value in first taking stock of the current state of employee wellbeing within your organisation.


Breaking Bad Workshop

In this free 23min video, People Matter's CEO, Amy King shares ways in which you can inspire action and build healthier cultures, that enable people to build resilience, avoid workplace burnout and be at their best.


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Supporting Employee Mental Health Part 1

If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series, ‘Minimising Pressures, Maximising Boosts’, you can find that on our website here.

How to measure mental health at work

Obtaining a detailed measure of wellbeing through a thorough assessment will enable you to be confident that you are truly serving the particular wellbeing needs of your employees—with any decisions and resulting actions being informed by real, current data specific to your organisation.

Please visit our Actionable Guide & Toolkit for if you are interested in using a data-led approach for measuring employee wellbeing.


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You can either drop us a message via the Contact Form or book in a chat with one of our consultants.

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Written by

Emily L Jarrett,
Lead Psychologist, People Matter