It is now widely known that one in four people in the UK will be suffering with a mental health issue of some sort at any one time.
We also know that whilst not all mental health issues are caused directly by work, work has been shown to play a significant role in whether or not, and how quickly someone recovers from a mental health issue.
Here at Mental Health In The Workplace, we are often contacted by organisations that are experiencing the impact of this statistic on their team, their clients and, as a result, their business and naturally, we hear a lot of examples of where mental health is not being prioritised and/or managed well, so it’s always encouraging when we hear that an organisation is getting it right!
It’s encouraging when we hear that an organisation is getting it right!
Recently a colleague of mine was invited to speak at a business event hosted at Metro Bank in Central Bristol and so I went along to support her.
Already inspired by the bank for putting on a well-being event for their team and clients, I got talking to one of the young branch managers about her role at the bank and was further inspired by how passionately she talked about the well-being culture at the bank.
Naturally, we got talking about mental health in the workplace and she shared a story with me that inspired this blog.
METRO BANK’S APPROACH
An employee had suffered with some mental health challenges which had led to him taking a significant amount of time off work. The bank were keen to support him during that time and equally keen to enable him back to work, recognising that doing so would to aid his recovery.
During a ‘return to work’ meeting, they discussed together some simple workplace adjustments that could be made to aid his return and it was agreed, amongst other things, that he could bring his pet dog to work with him.
She was grinning from ear to ear as she shared with me how the positive impact of this was not just being experienced by him, but by her too and all their colleagues. She went on to share with me how much more positive the team were as a result and how she could see a tangible improvement in their output.
So, I asked her if she knew why it was having such a positive impact, from a neuroscience perspective!
WHY IS THE APPROACH SO POSITIVE?
I explained that stress is an influx of certain chemicals that occur in the brain and body when we are under either extreme or prolonged pressure, but that there are other hormones that our brain also produces that combat these two stress hormones, one of which is Oxytocin.
Oxytocin is also known as the ‘LOVE’ or ‘HUG’ hormone.
Oxytocin is also known as the ‘LOVE’ or ‘HUG’ hormone, because it makes us feel loved. It plays a role in empathy, intimacy and trust and it regulates social interaction, enabling us to instigate, build and maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships, which are key to positive mental health.
Most types of connection increase the level of Oxytocin the brain
Most types of connection increase the level of Oxytocin the brain, which is why when we hug a loved one (including a pet), we get an Oxytocin hit which makes us feel good. A lack of Oxytocin can create feelings of loneliness, enhanced fear and distrust, which can result in isolating behaviour, which is not conducive to positive morale and effective teamwork.
So, for those of us who like dogs, stroking, petting, hugging or even just being in the presence of a dog creates this sense of connection, which in turn generates Oxytocin and because Oxytocin is a promoter of healthy and fulfilling relationships, the impact on people morale, effective team work and the results they achieve can be immense.
I asked Metro Bank for their take on this and this is what they said:
We know dogs can really help create a more relaxed and comfortable workplace, ultimately boosting employee satisfaction – which is why Metro Bank colleagues can bring their dogs to work too.
A dog never fails to bring a smile to someone’s face – plus we understand the important role dogs play in people’s lives and the calming effect they can have – which is why bringing your dog to work is one of the many ways Metro Bank is different to other employers.
It is, unfortunately, relatively rare that we hear of such a positive approach, which is why we felt that Metro Bank deserved some recognition!
And it made us think… Metro Bank can’t be alone surely?!
So, we are on the look out for other proactive and positive approaches to promoting positive mental health at work and we would love to hear your stories.
If you think your organisation has an approach to mental health that sets an example and is worthy of mention, let us know!
IS YOUR ORGANISATION DOING ENOUGH
To Promote Positive Mental Health At Work?
Find out by taking our quick Mental Health At Work Quiz
This short quiz will take you through the six areas of ‘work design’ that highlight the primary sources of stress at work that, when not managed well, are associated with poor mental health and can lead to increased absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in reduced creativity, productivity and results.