June 13, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Bosses urged to support employee mental health as cost-of-living crisis bites

Employers across the UK are being urged to offer extra help to support their employees’ mental health as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.
Emma Tomes says it’s more important now than ever before for people to be able to spot the signs of poor mental health amongst staff – and for individuals to be able to know when it’s time to ask for help.
“People are being squeezed more and more at the moment and the pressure is building,” she said.
“This is putting a strain on relationships and it can also affect the wider family. People’s stress may not be work-related, but often we can see a change in behaviours within the workplace.  I am on a mission to help employers gain the tools to be able to spot these signs and support employees who may be struggling.
“Employees may find themselves with less tolerance than they previously had. We might see more frustration or snapping and they might be looking for more reassurance than usual. They may withdraw from work and find things overwhelming, or they could struggle to switch off from work. People tend to be very good at masking things, so it’s important we check in regularly.
“As individuals we need to learn what stress looks like for us and how to deal with that. I want to help people to help themselves and give them coping strategies.”
Through her Bournemouth-based business, The Helpful Coach, Emma offers a variety of courses and workshops for businesses and employees, such as mindfulness, resilience, mental health awareness and understanding stress and anxiety.
Emma works on a consultative basis and workshops can all be tailored to the business’s individual needs.
“I really want to remove the stigma that surrounds asking for help,” she added.
“In society we are taught to be independent and strong, but we should feel comfortable in asking for help if we need it. But we don’t need to wait until then. Prevention is also important. It’s helpful to implement strategies such as wellness action plans to help start the conversation about wellbeing at work. Follow up is just as important too.”
Emma’s personal experience means she is well-placed to help people who may be struggling. “For me there came a point in my life about four years ago when I felt I was struggling; I had a ‘just keep swimming’ mentality,” she said.
“Then I hit a brick wall. There was illness in the family and everything came to a head. I started to experience panic attacks and I knew something had to change.
“Some people find it really hard to ask for help, but keeping on swimming is not sustainable. I took time off work, did some work on myself and learned self-help techniques and mindset tools to change my own thinking. It was so helpful to me and taught me coping strategies that worked.”
Emma’s new-found knowledge came into its own when her role as learning and development consultant at Specsavers was made redundant two years ago.
She had earlier set up a Facebook group, offering workshops to share her own mental health tips and to help people and her business grew from there.
“Working at Specsavers felt like I was part of a family and the redundancy felt like a huge loss,” she said. “But I’ve come full circle now. I’m back at Specsavers training their apprenticeship coaches in mental health awareness.
“I’m delighted to be able to help them look after the next generation and hopefully break the stigma of not be able to talk about our mental health at work.”
Emma also hopes to help men in the workplace in particular. “People say men are not very good at talking, but my experience shows me they are. What they actually need is a safe place free of judgement and criticism to do it,” she said.
“As the mother of two sons, now 25 and 15, we really need to encourage boys and men to be able to open up when they can and we need to be ready to listen without judgement. There needs to be space in the workplace for them to talk.”
Emma said it was also important for managers to understand the signs of poor mental health with so many employees working from home.
“We now have a blend of people working in the office and at home, but that can cause challenges with communication. My workshops can help bring people together to explore what help they need to communicate in the most effective way and inclusively too. Our courses help managers be more empathic, patient and compassionate and that results in a more engaged workforce and less absence.”
To find out more about Emma’s workshops and courses, visit helpfulcoach.co.uk