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Going Beyond Blog of Learning Opportunities

This blog is a place to share the learning opportunities through Going Beyond, our Communities of Practice education programme.  You can request to join a Community of Practice here: www.tssa.org.uk/goingbeyond

 Displaying posts 1 - 4 of 4

  • Managing Mental Health Risk At Work

    Author: Steve LoftPosted: 23 June 2020

    When we talk about risk management, employee mental health is very often not something considered, but it can have a massive effect on health and safety in the workplace. I asked my colleague at WellMent, John Allen, to research the current thinking around mental health and risk management at work, and here’s his findings. Click read more to read the full article   

     

    Mental Health Risk Assessments at Work – How to write one in 2020

    We all have a legal and moral responsibility to manage work related risks, including mental health. The transport sector manages risks to staff and passengers every day. Maintaining good mental health amongst colleagues is smart and critical to success. The TSSA and other unions have been working together with transport companies to manage the risks and push employee wellbeing to the top of the agenda.

    Why do we need to risk assess mental health at work?

    Poor mental health costs us all financially and morally. Following 2017’s ‘Thriving at Work’ review, the latest analysis by Deloitte shows poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year – a rise of 16% since 2016. 1 in 6 people in the last week will have experienced anxiety or depression. And in the rail industry, the rate of suicide is 1.6 times higher than the UK average. But the research also showed that for every £1 invested in mental health interventions, employers get back £5 per person. Investing in good mental health at work reduces sickness, presenteeism (showing up for work when you’re sick) and staff turnover. Away from the figures, we have a moral obligation. Work should not make us ill or exacerbate existing illness. Work should be a positive force in our lives, helping to provide us with a sense of identity and achievement.

    So how do we risk assess mental health at work?

    We combine the guidance from the HSE, Mind and other leading experts and marry it with guidance from sector specific experts; in this case the transport sector. We must also consider the impact of Covid-19, particularly in the transport sector. The pandemic has forced everyone to adjust their risk assessments and the UK government has now recommended every employer to include managing mental health in return to work strategies. Below are recommendations on risk assessing mental health at work.

    “Work-related mental health issues must be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable” 

    Source: HSE.gov.uk  

    Remember; employees have the right to work where risks to their health are properly controlled. Employees also have the right to protection after returning to work from sickness absence if an illness has made them more vulnerable.

    Drawing up a mental health risk assessment 

    1. Identify the mental health hazards 

    Abusive customers? Passenger accident or suicide? Armed robbery? Bullying? These are some hazards that might result from work situations in the transport sector. Before you start listing what you think the current hazards are, it is worth checking to see if there is an existing risk assessment for mental health. See if you can locate it. Cross-check existing assessments with HSE guidelines. Do they provide provision for mental health risks? If not, a new assessment needs to be done. Once done, you can then begin accurately identifying the mental health hazards still present at work. 

    2. Assess the mental health risks 

    Start by consulting each other. For example, how likely are workers liable to need support or time off due to crippling anxiety, depression, PTSD, or another mental health condition exacerbated or caused by work? Assess these risks in your workplace. What impact do they have on day-to-day functions? What impact are they having organisationally? What is the organisation already doing to minimise these risks? 

    3. Control the mental health risks 

    Is there occupational health support in place? Is there a wellbeing strategy to help the organisation thrive? You and your colleagues know better than anyone what the risks and potential risks are. Talk to colleagues. Talk to your manager. Ask questions. Your workforce is diverse, and everyone will be experiencing different issues. They may have suggestions you didn’t think of. Another way to help control these risks, is to consult government sanctioned support and advice for employers. You could use Mind’s guide on the Stevenson/Farmer ‘Thriving at Work’ review. This is UK government supported data and guidance. The report suggests all organisations adopt some core standards. These standards can be useful ‘lampposts’ to guide your mental health risk assessments and wellbeing strategy. 

    4. Record your findings 

    Key to any risk assessment is to record your findings. A failure to do so will invalidate any assessment and could lead to increased mental health problems in the future. Plus, it’s useful having a ‘go-to’ document to refer to when you’re not sure about issues. 

    5. Review the controls 

    Review agreed control measures regularly. In the current Covid-19 climate, a good routine to get into is perhaps once a quarter. It might be you don’t need to review for at least a year, but with the ever changing nature of work in an uncertain environment, you might want to review mental health risk more regularly than a standard assessment. 

    6. Build Covid-19 into mental health risk 

    The virus is not going anywhere. Science tells us this. So, we have to find ways to thrive with it. The current fallout caused by Covid-19 includes increased anxiety, frustration, guilt, anger, grief, fear of redundancy and general upset. What special controls do you think might help in a mental health risk assessment? E.g. PPE, minimal customer contact, regular management check-ins, support buddies, flexing or reducing work hours where practicable, using wellbeing champions, ensuring there are an appropriate number of Mental Health First Aiders available, providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for staff to call, or signposting to relevant local or industry support services where an EAP does not exist. 

    Raise awareness & show stigma a red signal

    It can be difficult to speak out sometimes. Incredibly difficult. But with UK mental health at an all-time low, it is essential we all try to speak up, particularly to help those unable or too afraid to do so. Use the resources provided by the TSSA and other organisations. Arrange meetings and discussions. Remember: Talking saves lives. Talking also helps organisations thrive. If senior management struggle to understand the importance of mental health, show them the statistics and investment returns. Approach from the profit angle if the moral angle doesn’t get through. Above all, try and remain positive. 

    Managing the mental health risk is everyone’s responsibility

    Just like physical health and safety, it is everyone’s responsibility to manage the mental health and safety of themselves and their colleagues. Mental health is like physical health, if we don’t look after it, we will keep ignoring our own personal “warnings” and passing our “red signals”. 

    References & Sources

    How to Implement the Thriving at Work Mental Health Standard in Your Workplace – Mind

    https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5762/mind_taw_a4_report_july18_final_webv2.pdf 

    Saving lives on the railways – Samaritans

    https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/workplace/rail-industry-suicide-prevention-programme/saving-lives-railways/ 

    Poor mental health costs employers £45 billion a year – Deloitte, Jan 2020

    https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-45-billion-a-year.html 

    How to be mentally healthy at work – Mind, 2016

    https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2928/work-and-mental-health-2016.pdf 

    Mental Health in the Rail Industry – Mental Health at Work

    https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/mental-health-in-the-rail-industry/ 

    Covid-19 – Lockdown and your mental wellbeing - RSSB, April 2020 

    https://www.rssb.co.uk/Insights-and-News/the-rssb-podcast 

    Mental Health in the Workplace – Word Health Organisation (WHO), May 2019 

    https://www.who.int/mental_health/in_the_workplace/en/

     

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  • How to respectfully work together remotely

    Author: Steve LoftPosted: 26 May 2020

     Remote Respect logo I used to work in an IT department a few years ago and I remember a time when our office had to be evacuated for several days due to a major plumbing fault. This situation meant we had to suddenly work remote and I recollect some of the behaviours and feelings that occurred across our teams during that time. I’ve found the notes of the lessons learnt session we had afterwards to assess what we could have done better, including me in my role as a manager as well as being managed at that time. It was clear that working respectfully and empathetically with colleagues was so important and some of us showed that more than others. But why was that and how can it be applied to the Coronavirus outbreak we now find ourselves in? In terms of people’s behaviours during such a change we find that:

    Sudden Change Naturally Brings Anxiety

    Coronavirus has brought widespread uncertainty. This uncertainty has generated anxiety in people. This feeling is very real, and a sense of threat is leading to hyper-vigilance. We need to respect that this change of behaviour in people is natural - we resort to our instinct of “fight, flight or freeze” mode when perceived danger appears.

    Calmness and Kindness Works Best

    The managers who held our team together and who set the best example were those who showed values of calmness and kindness rather that panic and sensationalism. It is important for managers not to have snappy and angry moments, but instead be prepared to listen (without trying to solve) and mediate between different viewpoints across colleagues.

    Respect That Different People Have Different Attitudes

    We should respect that some people will love the opportunity to be away from work, others will be a bit scared. Most will be in the middle, so it’s important to understand the whole spectrum of behaviour, and that they won’t necessarily be the same as yours. They also depend upon personal circumstances and attitudes to the situation.

    So, what did our lessons learnt identify as best practice should the situation arise again. Here are the main points my records showed:

    1. Trust Your People

    It’s a time to review, revise and agree SMART objectives with colleagues and trust them to work to those. For example, look at the outcomes of their work, not the time they spend at their machine; remote hovering is just as bad as in-office micro-managing.

    2. Set Up Team Values and Guiding Principles for the Period

    Consider setting “team values” that are developed and agreed by all the team, for example, trust, clarity, connection, calmness, kindness, collaboration, creativity.

    3. Regular Communication

    Keep team meetings going as well as virtual check-ins, at regular intervals, set in advance, but at times that are agreed by all. In the current situation, these may not be at usual times but later morning times or earlier afternoon times when households are likely to be settled and allow for people’s caring responsibilities.

    4. Taking Stock

    An unprecedented situation like this means there may be a need to spring into action at points, but it is also important to pause where you can so you can be clear on priorities and the best approach. It’s important to take time when you can so you are be more mindful about what you are doing, what to communicate and anything to put in place.

    5. Respect Work/Life Balance

    Discourage out of hours meetings (if people choose to send the odd email after kids’ bedtime/health appointments as normal working then ok).

    6. Try to reduce feelings of loneliness

    Research suggests that working from home has benefits up to two days per week (for those used to being at work mainly full-time), and after that there's feelings of separation and feeling left out. The best colleagues contact people about non-work stuff. Getting in touch with everyone, even a text is important. Particularly important are those who may be recently separated, divorced, on long term leave or bereaved.

    7. Remind colleagues and encourage them to use other support available for them

    Some organisations have staff helpline/Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) numbers. Local sickness, support and other policies that will apply – and may well be needed. There are also a range of contact numbers and support groups for those are struggling and feeling overwhelmed or anxious; make a list available for colleagues to use. Don’t forget your own wellbeing too.

    8. Listen to tips from colleagues and other current remote workers

    Always ask how colleagues are managing working remotely and the useful things they’re trying out that work for them; this may not only help you but helps them feel more engaged. We’re seeing this everywhere with people reaching out, sharing what works for them, and trying out new ways of doing things. There are a host of tips being made generally available from other remote and isolated workers and these are worth looking at and following if they work for you and your team.

    9. Self-compassion, empathy and a feeling of hope is key

    Taking it easy, especially on yourself. This situation is new to lots of people, and there is plenty we don’t yet know. Don't hold on too tight, people's anxiety is real. It is impossible to set timeframes because we simply don't know them. Remember, this not just affecting your colleagues, but their whole family as part of a national uncertainty. It is difficult, but it will pass. Most importantly.…. be kind to all.

    www.linkedin.com/in/emma-mamo-91543720/

    Additional Resources

     - Looking After You Mental Health Whilst Working During the Coronavirus Outbreak mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak/while-working (Mental Health Foundation)

     - Coronavirus and your wellbeing https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/" \l "collapse6aa35

     - COVID-19 Support Pack (Mind Tools) www.mindtools.com/pages/article/covid-19_support_pack.htm

    To find out more about our Remote Respect campaign visit: www.tssa.org.uk/remoterespect

     

     

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  • Resources for Mental Health & Wellbeing May 2020

    Author: Steve LoftPosted: 22 May 2020

    Hi Everyone, I hope you enjoyed Mental Health Awareness Week. Leave a comment to share what you have done this week to build awareness.Here are some useful links for you with resources on mental health and wellbeing:

    • Mental Health Foundation's top tips - looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak
    • Staying well at home - Read MIND's checklist to prepare for staying well while at home www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/
    • Protecting your mental health - If you are concerned about your mental health you can explore your feelings using the NHS emotion tracker. The tracker will help you to identify activities or resources to help www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mood-self-assessment/
    • Feeling lonely - useful suggestions if you are feeling lonely whilst self-isolating www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/feeling-lonely/
    • Preparing for social distancing and self-isolation - self-help books and resources from MIND www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing
     

    Steve Loft

    TSSA CoP Organiser

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  • Looking after my mental wellbeing during Covid-19

    Author: Steve LoftPosted: 19 May 2020

    Steve Loft pic blogSteve Loft is leading TSSA's new Mental Health & Wellbeing Community of Practice. Over the next few weeks you will hear more from Steve about strategies for your own mental wellbeing, and how we can create positive change in the workplace as workplace reps, managers of people and leaders on health & safety and equality in the workplace. For those who don’t know me, my name is Steve and I am a TSSA member who worked for 15 years at Transport for London, In 2017, I left Transport for London through voluntary severance and set up my own training and consultancy business to help workplaces improve awareness around mental health and wellbeing, and introduce practical steps to support employees. I’ve also managed my own anxiety condition – Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - for several years too. See my profile here: www.tssa.org.uk/TimetoTalk

    The current global crisis has brought an unprecedented amount of uncertainty for us all and it’s understandable this can be scary and so impact our mental wellbeing. Also, if you are working from home and/or practising social distancing from being based in an office, you’ll have already experienced big changes in your daily routine. It is completely normal to be feeling anxious or on edge, especially when hearing what is going on around us and the feeling of having no control over it. I see lots of similarities between the current situation and the one I faced when I left a busy office full of work colleagues in 2017 to go straight into working for myself and on my own; the very first time in 37 years of work. I can’t deny that it was not challenging at first, but I can reassure you that over time I coped well with the big change despite also managing my GAD, and I did this by following the www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/

    I’m a massive advocate of the tool and I’ve been using this approach in my life for a number of years now, even to the extent of sorting my computer files into five folders reflecting the five ways! It’s helped me manage my own anxiety and I’ll be continuing to use a balance of these five ways to help me maintain my mental health and wellbeing during this time of isolation. So, I’d like to share with you what I’m doing to ensure that I incorporate each “way” into my life, so it can help you in some way to maintain a sense of calm and balance, rather than anxiety and worry during this time of isolation.

    1. Connect with other people

    Feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to us functioning well in the world. I certainly need connection and so I’ve timetabled into my daily routine at least one form of connection with other people per day aside for my wife and son who are at home with me. I’m contacting family, friends and work colleagues regularly using the phone, text, instant message as well as the video conference platforms like Zoom, where I group chat with people I would normally meet in person. They are all people that I trust, and I’ve found it helpful to talk to them about my worries, especially if they are feeling in a similar situation. I’ll also be sending a few letters and cards as writing down what’s going on and finding out how others are doing is therapeutic for me. I also find listening to podcasts give me a feeling of connection too.

    2. Be physically active

    Because working from home more regularly has now become the 'new normal' for me, I am not moving as much as I was before. Being active is not only good for our physical health and fitness but it improves our mental wellbeing too. So, I am building more physical activity into my daily routine. I don’t have any gym equipment, so I’m going out for a long walk or run every other day, as well as doing the www.youtube.com/user/thebodycoach1 with my family every day.

    If you are not so mobile, there are some good www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/sitting-exercises/ I have seen which can help with activity and you can even do some whilst watching television. Normal household activities such as walking stairs, gardening and cleaning are keeping me busy too, and I’m also making time to listen to my favourite music and having a little boogie to that.

    3. Give to others

    I always get a real happy feeling when I do an act of kindness for someone else and I know this increases my wellbeing too. It’s a little harder to do such acts when in isolation, but I’ve decided to make a point of really thanking the people I’m contacting for what they have done for me because a lot have been very supportive. I’ll also always make a point of asking them how they are and really listening to their answer and acknowledging it; we support each other. I know doing some form of volunteering will warm my heart, and because I now have some spare time I’ve registered as a www.goodsamapp.org/NHS and hope to do some driving and have some chats with people feeling isolated and lonely soon. 

    4. Pay attention to the present moment

    Paying more attention to the present moment improves my mental awareness, which includes my thoughts, feelings, body as well as my surroundings. This awareness is commonly known as “mindfulness”, and I improve my attention is using an app called www.headspace.com/covid-19 for 15 minutes first thing every morning to set off my day in a calm way. They are offering some free sessions if you want to try it, but there are plenty of other app and sites out there, and my other favourites are mindfulnessexercises.com/balance-mindfulness-app/ (which is currently free for a year) and www.bemindfulonline.com/ (which is on video too). Mindfulness does not have to be meditation, and I try to be mindful in the shower, cleaning my teeth, when eating, as well as taking notice of the things around me when I go on my exercise runs/walks. I find mindfulness techniques help me focus on the present rather than dwelling on the unhelpful thoughts than can fill my head.

    Having a regular daily schedule and timetable is also important to me and I find what works for me is splitting activities (including work) into chunks of 50 minutes then taking a 10 minute break; I devote my full attention and focus on that activity for the time I allocate, set an alarm to stop, and then use the breaks to think about other things while I get myself a drink or snack.

    As part of my schedule, late in the evening I reflect on what went well for me in the day as I find it helpful for me to recognise my “little wins” and the things I am grateful for, no matter how small, and I keep a gratitude journal to write down two or three of these things every day.
    In my household, we have now have a “wish” jar where we write and put in post-it notes of things we wish we could do that we currently can’t due to isolation. We’re looking forward to picking these out of the jar and doing them once the current situation is all over.

    5. Learn new skills

    I’m finding that I do have more spare time in my day at the moment, and I’d produced a small list of things I wanted to learn a while ago, so I’ve decided to use this time for those now rather than just adding to time watching television or scrolling on my smartphone. So, I’ve picked up the ukulele that my wife bought me two Christmases ago and am learning to play. I also have a stone painting kit, and I’m looking forward to painting stones with positive slogans on them to leave around the various places I walk. I also started studying breathing and breathwork.

    It is important to choose new activities that help you relax and some ideas I have heard other friends are doing are arts and crafts, DIY, yoga, colouring, singing, writing or meditation. In order to improve my knowledge, I’ve discovered some great free on-line courses from the www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue and www.futurelearn.com/courses that are really interesting.

    Hopefully I’ve managed to give you some ideas for using your time to help your mental wellbeing during this time of isolation and/or working from home, There’s lots of resources out there around the subject and in my next blog I will share some that I recommend if you need them. Take care.

    Steve Loft

    TSSA Community of Practice Organiser


     

     

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