Interactive activities are a good way of keeping staff engaged and encouraging them to share ideas and concerns. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Opening and closing rounds
An opening round is a good way of ensuring everyone has had a chance to speak out. Once you’ve spoken once in a meeting or session, it’s easier to speak again. For example, you could ask everyone to introduce themselves and tell us one thing that they enjoy doing. Be encouraging and enthusiastic about every suggestion.
Don’t pick anything too sensitive or people might panic. Make sure you start so people know what is expected of them.
A closing round helps to end the session on a positive note. You could ask people to share one thing they’ve learned or one thing they’re going to do to look after their mental health today.
Opening and closing rounds can work over a remote session too and can ensure everyone is involved. Make sure that the person speaking is the only one with their microphone unmuted.
Mental health word association activity
This is a good way to introduce mental health and the differences in the way we think about our mental and physical health.
Tell the group that you’re going to do some word association. You’re going to shout out some phrases and you’d like them to share the words they associate with those phrases.
Start with ‘physical health’. Encourage staff to keep sharing ideas and associations. When you have had a number of responses, move on to something completely different, perhaps ‘winter’ or ‘school’. It doesn’t matter; this is just to break up the activity a bit. After a few more associations, shout out ‘mental health’.
You’re likely to find that for ‘physical health’ people’s associations are a mixture of both illnesses and ways to look after their health – for example exercise or healthy eating. In contrast you may find that people’s associations with ‘mental health’ are more negative – mainly diagnosis and treatment.
Highlight this to the group. Explain that this is a good example of the way we think about mental and physical health. When it comes to physical health, we are much more aware of how to look after it as well as what might go wrong. Why do they think this is? What other things could they have said about mental health?
Alternatively, you could ask staff to anonymously respond to the question ‘What words do you associate with mental health and wellbeing?’ before the session. You could then start your session with an overview of what people said, followed by some further info and statistics.
Discussions in pairs
Ask the group to turn to the person next to them and share their tips for looking after mental health and wellbeing. You could make this more specific by asking them to think about mental health at work and what your organisation can do to support staff.
Asking people to give tips and advice can be a good way to start the conversation. It’s easier to give advice than to talk about yourself.
You could always extend the discussion by asking people to move on to talking about what they do themselves.
Search out some key facts and figures about mental health. Create some cards that divide the stat from the rest of the information. For example, if one card reads ‘one in six employees’, its pair would read ‘will experience a mental health problem at work this year’.
Ask staff teams or groups to race to match them up correctly.
Five ways race
Introduce the five ways to wellbeing. Ask teams to come up with as many suggestions as possible for things to do in each of the five categories. If you want to make it really competitive, you could score by giving additional points for any realistic suggestion that no other team came up with.
Group questions – crowdsourcing with post-it notes
People may be uncomfortable about sharing their ideas and experiences. Instead of asking them to speak up in a group or in pairs, put some questions on big sheets of paper on the walls (or a virtual whiteboard if the session is remote). Flip chart paper works well – or you could print something out specifically.
If the session is being run in-person, give your staff access to lots of post-it notes and pens. Ask them to wander around the room looking at the questions and adding their notes and suggestions on post-it notes. You could also provide small ‘voting’ stickers that they could add to suggestions they like.
This enables staff to contribute more anonymously.
You might ask some of these questions.
- How well does [your organisation] look after staff mental health and wellbeing at the moment? What do we do well? What could we improve?
- What could we do to help you feel happier at work?
- How could we help you look after your mental health at work?
- What do you do to look after your mental health?