Over the past few weeks, we have touched on the topics of burnout, mental health, and the stigma surrounding mental health issues. We’ve even written a bit about how to reduce stigma, how to prevent burnout, and how to work on your mental health. This week we will write about how to work on maintaining good mental health of employees in our organization, whether they are colleagues or our subordinates, and how to maintain a positive work atmosphere in the organization that will not negatively affect the mental health of employees. Given that it is currently vacation time, next week we will touch on that topic, and we will write about all the benefits of taking a break from work and going on vacation.
What do the statistics show us?
It may sometimes seem to us that maintaining a balance between business and private life is becoming increasingly difficult. The stress of everyday life is becoming more and more intense, and the obligations and expectations are increasing. Given this way of life, mental health care often seems to fall into the background. A lot of research suggests that mental health is becoming one of the major health problems in modern society. Data collected in the United States show that nearly one-fifth of adults suffer from a mental disorder, and over 70% of them show some of the symptoms of anxiety or chronic stress. As the trouble rarely comes on its own, a relatively large number of people with mental health disorders also suffer from other health problems, such as heart problems, diabetes, chronic pain and the like. If we look at research conducted in Canada, 70% of employees are concerned about how much attention is paid to the topic of mental health in their workplace, while 14% believe that their work environment is not at all safe and good for maintaining mental health. The situation is not much better in England, where one-sixth of employees say they experience at least some symptoms of mental health problems on a weekly basis. Although everyone experiences their problems differently, and different individuals deal differently with both problems in life in general and psychological problems, there are some basic steps we can take to make their personal struggles easier for everyone.
Why is this important for organizations?
At first glance, it may seem to us that mental health is a matter for each individual, and that it is not something we should „stick our nos in“ as an employer or colleague. But just as the work atmosphere and responsibilities at work can negatively affect an individual’s mental health, psychological problems can also negatively affect entire organization. How can systemic employee mental health problems negatively affect our organization, and what are the positive consequences for organizations that care about the mental health of their employees?
- Employees who are healthy and satisfied are more productive! Successfully coping with depressive symptoms increases productivity in almost all employees, and reduces absenteeism by up to two-thirds.
- Mentally healthy employees often experience fewer other health problems, such as heart and stomach problems, and even respiratory problems. Less mental and physical illness in the organization means much lower costs for the organization due to less sick leave and days off
- Healthy employees are more likely to stay in their jobs. Research shows that a large proportion of employees who change jobs do so because of mental health problems and the feeling that the organization does not care about their mental state.
Why are organizations in a good position to take care of employees’ mental health?
We may wonder why the work environment is at all a suitable place to develop a work culture that cares about mental health? Why isn’t that something we would primarily deal with in our private part of life?
- We must not ignore the fact that people spend a lot of time at work, and the workplace is one of the main places to meet people, because we often spend more than 40 hours a week with colleagues at work!
- Just as the workplace can be one of the major threats to mental health, a work environment in which a stimulating and positive atmosphere prevails can be a protective factor in maintaining mental health!
- Organizations already have developed social networks that can be a source of support.
- Employers can regularly collect data on employees, and monitor their progress in maintaining and improving mental health.
- Organizations already have established hierarchies and communication structures that can be extremely useful in implementing programs aimed at maintaining and improving an individual’s mental health.
Threats to mental health at work can be many, and it is extremely important to be able to identify problems and develop appropriate methods to address those problems. It is also essential to turn the workplace from a possible threat to mental health into a protective factor for our mental health and the mental health of other employees and colleagues!
10 ways to improve mental health in your workplace. LifeSpeak. (2018). https://lifespeak.com/10-ways-to-improve-mental-health-in-your-workplace/.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Mental Health in the Workplace. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-health/mental-health/index.html.
How to support mental health at work. Mental Health Foundation. (2020). https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-support-mental-health-work.
Rawe, J. (2021). Workplace mental health: 5 ways to support employee wellness. Understood. https://www.understood.org/articles/en/workplace-mental-health-5-ways-to-support-employee-wellness.
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