World Mental Health Day: Why wellbeing in the workplace matters

PUBLISHED: 13:02 10 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 10 October 2019

Monelle Bryce-Reid, who lives in Letchworth and is employed at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, has been discussing wellbeing in the workplace for World Mental Health Day. Picture: Phoebe Cheong

Monelle Bryce-Reid, who lives in Letchworth and is employed at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, has been discussing wellbeing in the workplace for World Mental Health Day. Picture: Phoebe Cheong

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In a special column to mark World Mental Health Day today, Monelle Bryce-Reid - who lives in Letchworth and now works in the marketing and communications department at the University of Hertfordshire - writes about her experience of wellbeing in the workplace.

I really love the way wellbeing in the workplace is becoming habitual in modern business.

Happiness boosters for workers include an array of incentives: yoga, Zumba, or a team swim session followed by a free vegan buffet at lunchtime is for some a mere routine, perks for being at work. Workplace wellbeing is not only increasingly heavily invested in, it's actually playing part of the internal fabric of a business.

It's noticeable more in larger companies. Last year Google published their bottom line strategy to fetch happiness for employees to ensure staff stay happy at work - not just to retain staff, but to help staff blossom. They found by bringing in consistent doses of fun and treats increased staff satisfaction by 37 per cent, which in turn boosted team productivity and a rise in profits.

I come from a happy healthy hardworking family. I've watched my parents build their businesses from the ground-up. Grafting is innate. I've worked in the creative sector all of my life, the majority in education. I've had very happy highly rewarding roles with brilliant directors throughout my working life. Around six years ago my husband and I relocated from suburban North London to leafy Letchworth. It feels like a holiday for me.

Within months of settling in I secured a great job and had so much fun networking, partnering, and exploring business relationships. The job was a fabulous opportunity to learn about this region, create amazing opportunities for young people, and learn about myself.

More recently though I experienced bullying and harassment while working for a former employer as my initial workplace had been closed down while I was away for the year to have a baby.

Having returned to work from maternity leave I was forced into a new role, in a new building, with a new team and manager, in an awkward new system. It was horrid. I found the environment stifling, unfriendly, and unprofessional. This impacted on my confidence, my mood, my mindset.

I worked so hard every day. I was a new mum still nursing my baby, still waking for feeds at night and managing the guilt at daycare drop-off every morning.

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Going into work felt like going into an unnecessary war. I was confused as to why this was happening. Baffled as to why colleagues were being so cantankerous, every day.

In my mind I was crying for help. I regretted returning to work. I began to release my painful frustration at home lashing out to those closest to me rather than sweating it out in the gym or calling for intervention via HR. For the first time in my life work made me deeply unhappy.

I felt better being out and about at external meetings connecting with fascinating individuals rather than to sit in an office with unhappy miserable people who ridiculed my every move. The bullying was something I couldn't comprehend.

Never before have I encountered such awful workplace abuse having worked in notable corporate and public sector institutions since my final years of secondary school. I could see an obvious difference in conditions. I had a great secondment opportunity following my complaints to senior management. When I was asked to finish off some work in my initial department I remember being sat in a team meeting, six months pregnant and subject to a verbally aggressively attack by a new member of the team. The temporary team leader at the time appeared to relish in the abuse. With all the matters in the world my over productivity and a minor discussion on how to improve an excel spreadsheet caused such an uproar against me. It all felt so crazy, empty, and unfair.

A year past and I decided to never return to unhappiness. I left for maternity leave earlier than planned and handed in my notice while on it.

I now work in a beautiful university within a brilliant collaborative community. I love my job.

It's been almost a year here and wellbeing is part of our day to day. Our employer looks after us, we all work as a team and are encouraged to be collaborative, enterprising and friendly. I'm incredibly grateful as a new parent with two babies to now have an outstanding employer.

I finally feel happy again being back at work - and it didn't take long to realise everyone deserves wellbeing at work.

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