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Wellbeing at work: our contribution this 2024 Mental Health Awareness Week


According to Mind, one of the leading mental health support charities in the United Kingdom, around 1 in 4 individuals will experience a mental health issue each year in England. 1 in 6 people report experiencing common mental health problems such as anxiety or depression any given week in England [1]. Around the world, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year because of issues like depression and anxiety, which end up costing businesses an approximate US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity according to the United Nations[2]. In such a global environment, it is safe to say that mental health and wellbeing have become important areas that deserve more attention and care, personally and publicly. We have sat down with G&H Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Manager Richard Edge to find out what can be done to mitigate the negative aspects of such conditions, in particular in their early stages as preventive steps. Through his extensive people work as an ex-military in the UK Royal Marines and as an EHS Manager at G&H, Richard has been able to identify 6 crucial points that can be addressed from a company viewpoint – ideas that he and his team have been implementing at Gooch & Housego.

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1. It’s okay to not feel okay

In a diverse company such as G&H, the pluralism of thought can reel in a variety of issues, from problems at home to anxieties about work. Even though it sounds like a modern-day cliché, at G&H, the EHS team has adopted the motto: “It’s okay to not feel okay”. Encouraging what is known in psychology as habitual acceptance [3] promotes a healthier way of dealing with negative emotions. The key to this practice is observance over judgement. For example, when an individual has not been able to meet a deadline at work, they might experience distress and invite thoughts that question their self-worth or come up with worries about the safety of their employment. Through accepting the nature of those thoughts, the individual has a better chance of discerning the origins of those ideas. As such, they are also closer to coming up with solutions about their reactions that supports more balanced outcomes.

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2. Build reliable support communities

When experiencing mental health issues, what makes a critical difference is getting support. Knowing that one is not alone improves many aspects of the recovery process. At G&H, we have adopted the cooperative model of mental health first aiders. These are our colleagues who volunteer for this position and are available at each G&H site in the UK as a first touchpoint in dealing with certain emotional challenges. Their role is to offer a listening ear to employees in need or even a shoulder to cry on. All aspects of these conversations are kept confidential. In case people need further assistance such as medical advice, the mental health first aider is trained to guide the person to the right service. While everyone’s support system will look different, it is important to outline to people that they do have someone they can go to, including within a company environment.

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3. Always make it personal

The multitude of human experiences, present in a diverse setting such as G&H, means that no conversation or emotional issue will look like another. This translates into each mental health solution being one-of-a-kind because each individual is unique, with a distinctive set of concerns and solutions they respond positively to. Our goal, especially with the mental health first aiders, is to properly listen to whoever is in need and provide the appropriate healing setting for them. For example, some of our colleagues responded well to sports as a manner to reconnect with themselves and their social environment in a purposeful way. This, in turn, shaped a more positive outlook on their work at G&H. Others just needed a safe space to vent out frustrations or concerns, after which they could come back with a cleared mind to the task at hand. In every case, our mental health first aiders are picking up on the feedback they are receiving and strive to either hold space or direct the person to the appropriate specialist for their healing process.

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4. Space design is important

Design a space at your workplace dedicated to destressing. People react to their physical environments, so creating a nook that inspires relaxation and safety will visibly contribute to the overall employee wellbeing and satisfaction. Especially in a factory setting, such consecrated areas need to be emphasized even more to employees, for them to either take a break or have a chat about what is on their minds. At G&H, we have built special “snug rooms”, as we call them, on each UK site where people can go to relax or talk about their issues. These places also highlight the respective mental health first aiders available for a chat. From our experience, it is important to make such spaces part of the organizational culture, as they foster feelings of trust in the company since people know that they don’t have to bottle up emotions or hide when they feel low. Employees are accepted for who they are and can better integrate into their working day as such.

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5. Opening up for honesty and conversation

Within a corporate environment, it is important to know how to deal with mental health issues stemming from the workplace. Being open for honest conversations and feedback represents a crucial step in this regard. For example, for G&H, a particular strand of stress emerged throughout our merger-acquisition periods. During such change-prone periods, employees might experience stress from perceived uncertainty. Creating the space for conversations about these points establishes an outlet for employee concerns. At the same time, via appropriate communication, these feedback points can be relayed to the relevant management levels and turned into actionable items. For example, within G&H, such a strategic change regards focusing on the direct impact that the organizational change has on the employee. Through open communication during team meetings and individual 1-on-1s, potential points of stress can be better addressed. We have shifted our previous communication model, which looked at changes at executive levels, to focusing on an employee-first mindset instead.

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6. Make adjustments around your people’s needs

On the legislative side, in the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 obliges an employer to make reasonable adjustments around the workplace for specific mental health needs as to not discriminate against the worker. In your own legal environment, look at what elements could help mediate emotional conditions that prove to be stressful for your employees. These are essential tools that will enable you to foster the right working conditions. For example, we use the ISO 45003 standard at Gooch & Housego as a best-case practice guide for promoting and protecting the physical and mental health of our colleagues.

At the end of the day, everyone goes through high peaks and low valleys in their life experience. Our general advice is to look for the signs: are your colleagues more vacantly looking? Do they show visible signs of distress? Even showing up with a friendly “how are you feeling today” can make a difference for someone in need at the workplace. Through bigger or smaller steps, we can each do our part to make the workplace a safer, more welcoming, and more inspiring place.

[1] Mind. (2024). Mental health facts and statistics. Retrieved May 16, 2024, from

[2] United Nations. (2022, September 28). Mental health at work. Retrieved May 16, 2024, from

[3] Ford, B. Q., Lam, P., John, O. P., & Mauss, I. B. (2018, December). The psychological health benefits of accepting negative emotions and thoughts: Laboratory, diary, and longitudinal evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(6), 1075–1092.


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