David Arden
David Arden

Mental wellbeing should be at the centre of our working lives

Mental health terms (Jewish News)
Mental health terms (Jewish News)

As we look back over another challenging year for so many in our community, there is one key aspect of our health that should never be ignored – our mental wellbeing.

This is especially true when it comes to the workplace. According to the mental health charity Mind, at least one in six workers experience common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, a statistic that is only likely to increase given the uncertain times we are currently experiencing.

For people in employment, it has been another 12 months of stresses around health, job security and career development. Those with small businesses have had real concerns about whether they will be able to continue to make a living, particularly in areas like hospitality which continues to be a very unpredictable sector.

A few months ago, even a few weeks ago, it did seem like things were getting back to some sense of ‘normal’.

Then, just as we were all beginning to return to working in the office, and the pleasures and benefits that this brings with it, the Omicron variant arrived.

We were asked once more to start working from home – if our job allowed for that. And so, once again, as the rate of infection continues its rise, there is for so many, an accompanying rise in our feelings of nervousness and concern. And, once again, we also start to lose those vital human interactions that the workplace provides so well.

We know only too well how hard it is to focus on earning a living when our heads are full of so much to distract and derail us.

At Work Avenue, we do not regard ourselves as experts, but we have all been trained in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and are acutely aware of the impact of mental wellbeing on people’s ability to do their work, whether they are employed or self-employed. We have seen first-hand how some clients have experienced a range of mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, be they problems sleeping, general anxiety or other more profound difficulties.

It is clear that mental wellbeing must be at the heart of all discussions around employment and business in the Jewish community.

At the end of 2020, Work Avenue surveyed all those who use our services and found that half reported employment or business worries during lockdown had caused a negative impact on their mental health.

When we run the survey again shortly, we are expecting similar results.

Luckily, there are lots of places for those in our community to turn to for help.

The Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat takes place on 7/8 January. A cross-communal event, it’s a chance for the entire community to focus on and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

There is also Raphael, the Jewish Counselling Service, where individuals can arrange to see a counsellor for emotional support.

Then there is our Wellbeing at Work Conference, delivered virtually on 19 January, which will offer practical advice, together with plenty of hints and tips, to help you refocus and rebalance amidst the stresses and uncertainties of our times. To find out more please visit www.theworkavenue.org.uk/wellbeing2022.

As we turn our attention to 2022 and the year ahead with all its likely challenges, we must remember when it comes to work and business, mental wellbeing is not just a nice to have.

It is essential for all individuals and workplaces and can help ensure high performance, reduce risk of burnout and create an open, supportive and healthy environment where people can develop and thrive.

About the Author
David Arden is the CEO of Work Avenue. He has a background in project management, business change and delivering strategy and has held roles in the public, private and not for profit sectors. 
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