Julia Steer HR & Office Services Manager coaches us through a mid-day mile

What is the mid-day mile?

This is a new initiative recently launched at the BPA to encourage staff to get away from their desks for half an hour at lunchtime and get some fresh air and exercise.

Where did the idea come from?

We are keen to promote the health and wellbeing of our staff and this includes their mental health.  The idea came from a number of conversations I have had with different colleagues over the last couple of months.  Also, during August our office layout will be temporarily reconfigured to accommodate essential maintenance of the roof of Chelsea House, so it is the perfect time for us to do something positive to get people away from their desks for a break. We have Steve Clark to thank for coming up with the name! 

What are the benefits of doing some exercise during the day?

There is evidence that regular exercise can boost self-esteem, relieve stress, improve memory and can help with concentration; it can also improve sleep and help you feel better.  Experts recommend 30 minutes exercise 5 times a week.

How prevalent are mental health issues?

Statistics show that 1 in 4 adults in the UK struggles with their mental health and in the workplace the figure is 1 in 6.  We, like other organisations, do have staff that struggle with their mental health from time to time.  We have initiatives in place to support our staff including referrals to Occupational Health and counselling.  We have a trained Mental Health First Aider and have recently provided mental health training to help the management team support their teams.

What can I do for myself or for others?

Simple things we can all do to look after our mental health at work to build resilience are:

Talk about our feelings – this is not a sign of weakness. Find someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive.  You may want to think about what you want to disclose and when/where to do this

Eat well – a balanced diet is good for both physical and mental health.  Regular meals, plus drinking plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Try to reduce sugar intake and get away from your desk to eat.  

Keep in touch – working in a supportive team is hugely important for our mental health at work.  Try to maintain contact with colleagues, friends and family even if work is intense.  A good work life balance is important.

Ask for help – if you need some support, your first point of contact should be your GP.  Over a third of visits to GPs are about mental health.  You GP may suggest things that you or your family can do to help you.  Your line manager or HR team can offer you support too.

Where does the mid-day mile take place?

We are lucky to have two parks in close proximity to the office - Clair Park and Victoria Park - and will be using them to start with but will be happy to receive suggestions from staff for alternative routes.

How many people took part in the first sessions? 

We had five participants at the first session and feedback was very positive. The participants learnt new things about each other that they wouldn’t necessarily have found out during the working day and this even resulted in the potential for three people to car-share to/from work.  Everyone commented on how nice it was to mingle with staff from other teams. Morale was lifted and the break from the office was beneficial. It was a windy day and although it kept dry, rain had threatened to call it off!  We are hoping that better weather may encourage others to join in.

How regularly would you expect BPA staff to do this?

We are starting with two sessions a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at different times over the lunchtime period so everyone has the opportunity to take part.  If the idea takes off, we will add in extra sessions.

Are there activities planned to support staff mental health?

We held a coffee morning last year on World Mental Health day to raise awareness of mental health issues and to encourage staff to talk about mental health.  This which was a great success.  The date for World Mental Health day this year is 10 October and we are planning to run a similar coffee morning again.   The Time to Change and MIND websites provide information on mental health and mental health in the workplace and are very useful resources.