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Petra Velzeboer: How to Support Mental Fitness in the Workplace

By February 5, 2019No Comments

The Personally Speaking Bureau are delighted to welcome Petra Velzeboer as a guest blogger on our website this month.

How to Support Mental Fitness in the Workplace By Petra Velzeboer

As a mental health consultant, I frequently get asked about the business case for mental health at work. Finally we’re living in a time where businesses are waking up to the financial cost of not putting a prevention plan in their workplace. A prevention plan focuses on supporting issues such as long term absence, presenteeism and staff turnover. Reports such as Thriving at Work and Seizing the Momentum have been helping that cause.

What is a mental health at work plan?

A mental health at work plan simply pulls together all your initiatives to do with well being . It creates a plan that is strategic and can impact everyone. A great way to start is getting your senior leadership (CEO, President) to speak about their mental health. They should also speak about the importance of looking after their people. This has the single biggest impact in ensuring the company is leading by example and isn’t just ticking a box.

While awareness days are great for challenging stigma and getting everyone involved, it’s often leadership training that has the biggest impact long term.

Some of the biggest fears leaders and managers have when it comes to mental health are:

  1. Time – they simply don’t have enough time for all these empathetic conversations.
  2. Opening Pandora’s box – they’re worried that if they start the conversation no one will do any work.
  3. Skill – they’re worried they don’t have the skill to know how to fix the problem or may even make it worse.


Our leadership training challenges all of these fears by teaching that empathy can be embedded in the conversations you have already. It doesn’t need to take more time.

We teach active listening. This shows that we don’t need to have all the answers to make things better. Simply taking a minute and signposting to appropriate support can be enough to make the individual feel supported.

And finally, mental health is about all of us. It’s about culture, engagement, team building, loyalty, productivity, success mindset and growth mindset. Furthermore, it’s the ability to build something special together.

The reports listed earlier can act as a guide on frameworks for creating a mentally healthy workplace long before crisis point.

How do we get started in changing our work culture?

We get started by simply being present and learning to really see each other again.  When I give keynote talks we think about the effect of technology on our society’s ability to connect. We show empathy and do simple challenges to remind ourselves of what eye-contact and human-contact are like. It’s amazing how disruptive a little exercise where we look into each other’s eyes and touch hands with our neighbour can be.  As Brene Brown says ‘it’s hard to hate each other up close’ . There are some really simple steps to learn how to connect which ultimately creates a mentally healthy culture.

What can mental health mean to me personally?

So just a reminder, we all have mental health just like we have physical health. During my Keynotes I’ll show images of how physical health is viewed in the media, (aspirational, victorious, cool etc.) and then show how mental health has traditionally been portrayed (despair, hopeless, broken). Then I show how in the past year this message is starting to change. We’re showing mental health as aspirational, a healthy mindset, success, good leadership etc.

So really what we’re talking about is investing in our minds just like we invest in our bodies in order to be the best version of ourselves, at home and at work.  The way we can do this is through meditation, exercise, connecting authentically with people and practicing self-awareness. This allows us to notice the signs of burnout or poor mental health well before a crisis point.

At work, we want to have conversations at this stage as ultimately, we save money, enhance productivity and retain staff long term.

Is mental health at work just a fad?

Mental health at work is here to stay. With momentum building in the UK and across the world, there’s talk of mental health guidance being added to health and safety legislation. There is an incentive and framework to support businesses to focus on their people.

The world of work is changing. New businesses filled with the younger generation know that they need to prioritise mental health, invest in their people and provide a sense of team and purpose if they’re to retain talent.  Remote working means we need to utilise more skills than ever to ensure our connections are real and authentic. People need to feel like they’re building something and not just showing up.  It truly is an exciting time to be part of this conversation, not just awareness raising but really being in a position to help businesses figure out how to put these initiatives into practice in order to create real change.

Read more about Petra Velzeboer here.

Contact us today to inquire about Petra’s availability to speak at your next event!

+353(0)1 475 0360

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