Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

It is often said that workplace culture is how your stomach feels on a Sunday night about Monday Morning!

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and focuses on the theme of anxiety, a common condition that many of us will experience during our lifetimes.

We all have mental health and, just like our physical health, it needs looking after to ensure we stay well.

It is estimated that one in four people experience a mental health issue in any given year and that at least one in six employees is depressed, anxious, or suffering from stress-related issues at any one time. The good news is that learning more about our mental health and ways to get support can empower people to thrive.

Did you know that a level of ‘stress’ can be good for you!?

In small doses, stress can have advantages. The energy it gives you can be useful for providing an extra boost to achieve targets and get stuff done. Good stress can feel invigorating, but only for a short time.

The Architecture and Design industry is known to be a demanding profession; intense focus, a high level of responsibility, managing multiple projects and long hours are not uncommon. In some instances, this can lead to anxiety and struggles with mental health.

It’s vital that we think about how we can best support employees who struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues. This year’s theme highlights the importance of not only understanding Anxiety but also taking action to create a supportive work environment for colleagues.

We recognise the challenges and aim to create a workplace that sustains and supports our team. We understand the importance of reviewing our studio environments to ensure we continue to meet changing needs and offer an inviting and comfortable place to work. Our agile working policy aims to provide flexibility for people to create a work-life balance that adapts to individual lifestyles.

Here at LHC Design, we also felt it was really important to deal with the issue head-on and to this end last year we ensured that each of our studios had a couple of mental health responders as part of the team.

All of them now have the FAQ L2 Adult Mental Health: Workplace Responder qualification. This course helped provide them with a greater understanding of the many mental health issues that can affect individuals. It also gave knowledge of key organisations and charities operating within the sphere and best practice frameworks.

Our mental health responders act as a point of contact for anyone that may be experiencing difficulties. They aim to identify the person’s needs, offer ongoing help and signpost them to additional support when needed, from practical support in managing project deadlines to bereavement and menopause awareness. Whilst they are not a replacement for mental health care, they do provide a listening ear to those that may need it.

But perhaps more important than all of this, is the actions we take daily that enhance our Wellbeing…

At Plymouth Studio in Royal William Yard, every lunchtime, many of the team come together to circumnavigate the Yard. Come rain or shine, we can be found bracing the elements and making the most of our location!

We find something as simple as taking the time to move, stretch our legs, and lift our gaze away from our screens toward the ever-changing waterfront vista makes a tremendous difference in helping to manage stress and anxiety. Not only does it allow us time to decompress and recharge, but it also offers a fantastic opportunity to catch up or switch off and quietly enjoy our surroundings.

Walking has been proven to improve creativity and divergent thinking. It creates a great environment for informal learning, a time for connections, when new ideas emerge, and problems are resolved. We have all noticed the benefits on our Wellbeing, productivity, and focus.

As the warmer weather takes hold, a few brave souls can even be found bracing themselves for a swim at Devils Point! The benefits of cold-water swimming are well documented; by placing positive stress on the body, it physically calms the mind.

As a business, we are working toward embedding sustainability in our company culture. We have always had a strong cohort of enthusiastic cyclists, but the introduction of our Cycle to Work scheme many years ago has seen increased interest in active travel and consideration of more sustainable transport methods, including the adoption of e-bikes. Sustainability is both a social and environmental model and our colleagues on two wheels feed back to us the great benefits this has for them both mentally, physically, and financially.

This year we are excited to be part of the Wellbeing Champions program delivered by Livewell Southwest, which will give us the opportunity to audit our approach to Health and Wellbeing, find out how we can do better and enhance our understanding and provision, with access to further training opportunities.

This week serves as a reminder of how important it is for us all to take care of our own Mental Health and Wellbeing and be there for those who may need our support.