Penumbra’s Caroline Ploetnar looks at mental wellbeing in the workplace

The modern workplace can be a stressful environment. It can be hard to be open about your wellbeing at work, and it can be difficult to recognise signs that your mental health is beginning to suffer. Everyone has mental health, and everyone experiences highs and lows as a normal part of life. There is a growing awareness in the workplace that managing and supporting staff wellbeing has benefits for everyone in an organisation: from increased staff motivation and reduced sickness absence, to a happier, more supportive and emotionally responsive team.

Earlier this year, Caroline Ploetner, the Acting Assistant Manager of the Carntyne service, was approached to give a short series of workshops to staff and managers at Glasgow’s Buchanan St branch of Nationwide. The purpose of these was to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and to explore strategies to stay mentally healthy at work. When we create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear, and easier for them to reach out for help when they need it. There is still, unfortunately, social stigma around mental ill health, and it can hard to acknowledge, either to ourselves or to managers or colleagues, that things are becoming difficult. We discussed some of the early warning signs of our mental health taking a dip, and the importance of a safe and open working environment as a preventative factor. It can be hard to recognise these early warning signs in ourselves. A kind word from a colleague can be all it takes to start the process of recognising and dealing with these issues.

Safe, supportive spaces make for a happier workforce. Staff should also be made aware of the importance of practising self-care, of monitoring and caring for one’s own mental health. This can be through eating well, trying to keep physically active, or talking about one’s feelings. It can be hard to find time, or the place, to talk openly about emotional issues. Regular, confidential supervisions with management, if held in an empathetic and supportive manner, can provide one important opportunity for these conversations; team meetings, too, can provide a valuable space to acknowledge work stressors and for colleagues to feel part of a supportive team.

These workshops were extremely successful, and Nationwide are keen to see them run again. They have also been kind enough to run a fundraising campaign for Penumbra. There is the possibility of these workshops being taken up by other companies. Raising awareness of mental health in this way has many benefits: from increasingly the visibility of the good work we do, to helping to create supportive and empathetic work environments.