Why employee wellbeing should be at the top of your list this 2017!


Why employee wellbeing should be at the top of your list this 2017!

The Digital Mental Health Revolution: Why employee wellbeing and engagement should be top of your list for 2017.


‘Wellbeing’ is a buzzword that was hugely popular in 2016, and to be truly competitive in 2017, organisations need to look at employee wellbeing, engagement, and benefits as the way to attract and retain top talent.


The dictionary definition of wellbeing is ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’, but my feeling is that to truly have a positive sense of wellbeing, all three need to be considered. It’s hard enough to keep your whole family comfortable, healthy and happy in one go, so how is an organisation supposed to manage that for their whole workforce?


The most recent statistics show a much clearer picture of the scale of the problem, and a full infographic from the CIPD can be seen here [https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/employee-outlook-infographic-mental-health-workplace-739x1032_tcm18-10551.jpg]. Of those surveyed, 31% of the workforce said they have experienced a mental health problem while in employment, a figure that has steadily risen over the past 5 years. There has been no increase in employees disclosing a mental health problem to their employer, despite how far we’ve come in understanding common diagnoses such as anxiety and depression.


To see the impact this has on your organisation is eye opening. Eighty five percent of employees statethey found it difficult to concentrate at work and nearly half say they felt less patient when dealing with customers and clients. The bottom line cost to your organisation is hard to calculate,  although in 2010/2011 the HSE calculated the cost of work-related stress/psychological absences to be around £3.6billion to the UK economy. Given the figures have all risen since 2011, we can only assume the cost to be greater in 2017.


Let’s put that in real terms. On average, employee absence from work due to stress, anxiety or depression lasts 23.9 days. Rounding this down to 4 working weeks, and at an average salary of £27,600pa, the cost to the organisation is a minimum of £2,300 per employee, per absence. With 31% of the workforce saying they’ve experienced a mental health problem at work, and that cost not taking in to account any productivity loss, you can quite easily calculate an estimate for your organisation, around £700 per employee approximately.


Looking at wider surveys, the UK tends to rank very low when it comes to employee wellbeing. A study from Business in the Community in 2016 showed that UK workforces were 31% less productive than those of the US, and 17% less productive than the other G7 countries. The UK ranked as low as 18th out of 20 countries surveyed for employee engagement.


We know that the stigma is still there – 95% of employees who were absent in 2015 due to a mental health condition cited another reason for their absence, so we can’t expect people to be honest and open. We know that mental health conditions can affect anyone, at any time, so a solution should be available to everyone. We know that the only way an organisation can effectively scale a solution is through technology, hence why we have intranets, internal newsletters, mobile benefit schemes and vouchers, among others.


Dr Andres Fonseca is a Consultant Psychiatrist, Honorary Lecturer at UCL and CEO of Thrive Therapeutic Software, who shares this opinion.


“In my career as a psychiatrist, I calculated that I could aim to help around 16,000 patients from qualification to retirement. That figure is insignificant compared to the size of the problem. We will never be able to train enough therapists or doctors to cope with the ever-growing mental health issue, and the only way we can confidently deliver a solution globally is by using technology and proven therapeutic techniques.”


Andres was Group Medical Director of one of the UKs largest independent mental health hospital groups before joining forces with a highly experienced games developer (credits including Tomb Raider and many more). Following 4 years of clinical research and development, they released the first evidence based app for employees to pro-actively manage common mental health conditions called ‘Feel Stress Free’ – available on all iOS and Android devices. Having rolled out to several organisations across various sectors, the app has a take up rate of over 65%, compared to the average 2% for an Employee Assistance Programme.


In what is the most competitive economic climate for decades, 2017 must be the year we take a pro-active stance on employee wellbeing. Retaining, looking after, and supporting your staff should be a priority. Why? The statistics alone prove your business will benefit immeasurably.


10 tips to keep calm during festive shopping


10 tips to keep calm during festive shopping

Shopping for your loved ones over the festive season is a daunting task for numerous reasons. ‘Will I have enough money?’, ‘What if they don’t like their gift?’, 'When will I have enough time?' are just a few questions which can make someone go from calm and collected to stressed and panicked. A recent study has shown that shopping for the festive season could actually be as stressful as running a marathon!*

Queues, bumping into people in busy shopping centres, carrying 4 different bags in each hand... These are just a few of the things that can increase your stress levels whilst trying to shop for relatives who probably deserve way more than you have managed to find anyway! These top tips will help keep you grounded during the festivities!

  • Budget. Write a list of who you need to buy for and the budget you are able to set aside. This way, you shouldn’t accidentally leave anybody out while ensuring you have enough money put away for everybody! Try to set a limit that you would like to stick as a whole.

  • Make an agreement. With some of your adult friends/family, it might be a good idea to agree on a set budget for each other. This way, you won’t be worrying about if you overdid it or feel bad because you didn’t spend us much as them. You can even agree on a low amount to mutually save money and worry.

  • Do some shopping online. Rather than having to deal with brushing elbows and subtle nudges out the way, consider doing some of your shopping online. It’s quick and easy with most sites offering guaranteed delivery before the big day.

  • Sleep well. Enough sleep is crucial to remaining calm, especially during busy periods. Aim for 7 to 8 hours a night, too much sleep could also negatively impact you.

  • Don’t turn to booze. With alcoholic beverages almost everywhere because of the festive season, it may be tempting to have a few glasses of an evening to calm yourself down. Alcohol has a negative impact on mental health and can contribute to feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.

  • Don’t waste time. Start your shopping as soon as possible to prevent last minute panic. It’s a good idea to start picking up little bits here and there well in advance. You’d be surprised how quick the pile adds up!

  • Know when to stop. Pick a date in December that you will stop you preparations and begin to enjoy the holiday. By giving yourself a deadline and sticking to it, you should definitely have time to relax!

  • Take a break. If you are in the middle of a shopping centre and begin feeling flustered, take a short break, even if it’s simply stepping outside for a few minutes for a breather. Clearing your mind will do wonders for your stress levels and means you can revisit the task feeling fresh and focused.

  • Stay healthy. Ensuring you eat and drink well is crucial for your wellbeing. Eat a balanced diet which will give you energy and not leave you feeling lazy so you are ready to start your preparations. So don't overindulge.
  • Exercising can also help to destress you. Not everything about going shopping is bad, you should get plenty of exercise! Try to do as much of it as you can walking.
  • Keep calm on the go. Practice deep breathing techniques, this is a stress reliever you can do on the go, even whilst you shop! You can also download ‘Feel Stress Free’, an app which can build resilience to and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and mild depression. It includes numerous different activities which you can do on the go at any time for as long as you choose!

To download Feel Stress Free, visit: www.feelstressfree.com

* (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3941672/Christmas-shopping-stressful-running-MARATHON-Hitting-high-street-increase-heart-rate-33.html)


4 things that 6 million men might want you to know


4 things that 6 million men might want you to know

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believes that 76% of people in the UK who suffer with a mental illness will never seek help. On that basis, if 1 in 4 of the 32 million men in this country are suffering with a mental health condition, and 76% of those do not seek support, we have approximately 6,080,000 men in this country who need support right this second, but haven’t told anyone how they feel. To sit back and think about that for second is almost incomprehensible. Why are so many suffering in silence?

Whilst it’s shocking to hear, I can understand those figures as I was one of them. I didn’t seek support until quite a serious incident happened and I had no choice. Until that point, I’d avoid being honest with anyone and everyone. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt like everyone would laugh at me. I thought no one would understand. Frankly even I didn’t really understand what was going on, so how could I expect to be taken seriously? Unfortunately, that seems to be a very common way of thinking for men who are struggling emotionally. 

In my opinion a lot of this comes down to how we’re all taught, not just at school, but also by the media. To learn more about depression, it’s worth spending some time to watch this video. This is the best animation I’ve found online that describes the way the illness makes you feel. One of the biggest worries when you are struggling is that other people won’t understand. By watching this video, it may help you tell others about it.

When I was at my worst, I didn’t want to tell anyone. Even when someone asked, my reply was always ready ‘Yeah, I’m fine!’ With a big smile on my face. Unfortunately, us men are all brought up in similar ways. 'Male pride', amongst other things, can be a huge block in your way to seek support. The Mental Health Foundation have launched a powerful campaign around the words ‘I’m fine’ recently following their findings which show only 1 in 5 people who say ‘I’m fine’ actually mean it. Check it out here.

In this article are 5 things I wish those close to me knew when I was at my worst. Everyone is different of course, but there is a lot of simple advice that can have a huge impact on a man's life, and I hope that by reading the below it may help you to help someone close to you.

  1. Treat the person normally – Quite often, the low self-esteem associated with mental illness can leave you feeling like a burden to anyone you do open up to. By acting differently around them and being obviously concerned, it could have a negative effect. For example, I don’t text my colleague every morning saying ‘How are you feeling this morning?’ So why did people used to do that with me when I was struggling with my depression? Because they cared, that’s why. But eventually I knew those texts were coming in advance, and I’d have an answer lined up similar to ‘yeah, much better today thanks,’ just so they’d stop coming through. I wanted to feel normal, not like a ‘special case’, even though I knew I wasn’t myself. The more you can keep the conversation and relationship as ‘normal’ as it’s ever been, the better.
  2. Be patient. I was up and down for quite some time. Even if you’ve had a really good day with someone who is openly struggling, the next day they may feel completely differently again. Depression can be one step forwards and two steps backwards, no matter how far along the recovery process you are. I remember going out for the evening with some friends when I felt particularly down. I felt like I’d really achieved something and I may be on the way to good things by finding the courage to go out and have some fun. One of my friends texted me the next day saying he wanted to book a weekend away. I said no as I didn’t feel quite up to it yet, and I got a barrage of ‘banter’ telling me I should be fine now, I’d managed the night before so what is different with a weekend away, etc. It made me feel awful. Just because someone may have a good day does not mean they are ‘cured’. It doesn’t work like that. Be patient and understanding. If the person suffering doesn’t feel quite up to a situation, accept it and be there for them.
  3. Relate to them as much as possible. Sometimes there just isn’t a solution, so don’t feel pressured to find one. Just talking on their level and trying to relate to them is enough a lot of the time. You won’t understand exactly how they feel, but by talking about your own emotions, the person will learn that you’re just as ‘normal and human’ as you are. This was a hard one for me to get my head around as my first thought whenever someone comes to me with a problem is ‘right, let’s work out a way to fix it’. Unfortunately, that approach does not work with depression. Depression is something you need to work through, not get over. By showing that you can relate to how they feel, or that you are at least open to trying to understand, is a huge step in the right direction to make the person who is struggling feel a little more confident about opening up. When I felt low and someone approached me with a bit of an understanding, or at least an openness to talk about their emotions, it would make me feel so much more confident in speaking about myself.
  4. It could just be the depression talking. I used to find that I’d snap at my family for no reason. It was frustration on my part. I don’t know why I did it. I couldn’t think clearly. What I thought felt real, but it wasn’t reflective of the situation, or justified on my part. It wasn’t me. It was the depression talking. I remember the irritability very well.  I’d feel down, not know why, and it would anger me. I’d get frustrated with myself as I didn’t know why I felt so low, and I’d then take it out on my family by saying something I didn’t mean. That would then make me feel even worse about myself for saying something I didn’t mean, and so the cycle would continue. If someone says something to you that seems out of character, it’s probably because it is, and they don’t actually mean it. Bear with them.

Supporting someone who is struggling with depression isn’t easy, but it’s appreciated more than you will know. It’s important to be open about our own experiences if we expect someone to be open with us, and by all sharing that same open approach we can continue to break down the stigma one person at a time.


Anger at work?


Anger at work?

We have all felt anger at one time or another in our lives, with over 45% of staff losing their temper at work and 64% of those in office jobs experiencing ‘office rage’ *. Feeling anger is an extremely powerful emotion and can cause many issues- especially in the workplace.

Anger is a vital emotion. It typically stems from feelings of frustration, annoyance and resentment and it has helped us survive up until now. According to Mental Health Forum, anger is made up of three main component—physical, cognitive and behavioural. The physical effects of anger can include a rush of adrenaline, increase in heart rate and blood pressure and also tightening of muscles. The cognitive side of anger typically includes the way in which we think about the thing that is angering us. Think back to the last time you were angry about anything, were you thinking about it realistically or were you exaggerating the issue because of our anger? Finally, the behavioural aspect includes how one may act when angry, this can include shouting, slamming doors etc.

While it has been throughout the history of humanity a valuable contributor to survival anger can be very harmful both to ourselves and others when we don't manage it well. In a professional environment behaving in an angry way is not acceptable. There are many reasons why you may feel angry at work, but you need to find a way to prevent an outburst that could hurt your career or reputation within a company.

Here are some easy ways to keep calm at work:

  • Keep a trigger diary. Make notes of everything that frustrates you throughout the week during work—this way you will understand what makes you angry and you can begin to avoid triggers.

  • Take a break. One of the best ways to remain calm when something angers you is to remove yourself from the situation, even if this means stepping outside of the room for a couple of minutes.

  • Think before you speak. Breathe deeply and think clearly about the situation before you voice your opinion, prevent an outburst at all costs. Some people distract themselves for a little while to achieve this by either focusing on their breathing, counting or simply pausing to look out the window.

  • Practise deep breathing exercises, this is a quick and effective way to calm down which can be done anywhere for however long you need.

  • Think positively. Thinking about the situation which has made you angry in a negative light will make things worse, think about whether it is even worth getting angry about. Also make sure that you give people the benefit of the doubt, they may not be doing things for the reasons you think. Their intentions might be good, but maybe they are not thinking clearly or they do not know what you know.

  • Imagine a relaxing place. Close your eyes and think of somewhere relaxing such as the beach or the countryside for a couple of minutes. It may help you clear your mind and be more rational about what you want to do next.

  • Use humour. Using humour can help you to diffuse the anger you feel, try to make some jokes out of the situation. Ensure they are not bitter and spiteful.

  • Meditation. Learn to meditate, meditation can quite simply be sitting letting your thoughts flow without engaging them. Focusing on your breath or your senses can help you shift your attention away from what is making you angry.

  • Share your feelings- If you begin to feel frustrated, confide in somebody you trust. Expressing your feelings may allow you to calm down, particularly if the person you are talking to can help you see things from different points of view.

  • Download Feel Stress Free. Our app consists of clinically proven techniques which help build resilience to prevent stress, anxiety, mild depression and other negative emotions such as anger. The app consists of activities such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, building your own zen garden, monitoring your mood and more.

By following some of these tips you should find yourself remaining calm during work.