Mental Health and the Workplace
In the modern world, reportedly as many as 77% of workers have suffered from some form of mental health issues - such as depression or anxiety - as a result of the workplace. Many employees also exhibit and report stress symptoms as a result of their working lives. With most of our workers feeling stressed, anxious or even depressed in the workplace, then, it seems a wonder that anything ever gets done at all. The bottom line is that bad mental health in employees is bad for business, so why do we encourage and even create environments where stress is the overriding feeling?
It’s the biggest issue of the modern workplace. Conditions are such that stress is the overriding factor, it has become a part of the work culture which we all enter into. So, it is both the responsibility of the individual worker and the overall employer to improve mental health in the workplace; both on a case by case basis, as well as culturally. But, how exactly do you go about doing this?
How to Improve Your Workplace Mental Health
1) Review Current Practice
Before setting out to revolutionise mental health policies in a workplace, companies need to first assess their current practice and what they could be doing in order to improve that first and foremost. The question is, how exactly do you go about understanding your current practices and how effective they actually are?
The easiest way to determine what you are doing and the success of this is to conduct a comprehensive, anonymous, staff survey that gauges the overall mental well-being of your staff members. Not everyone will fill it out, nor will everyone be honest, but it can help to gain an overall sense of the worker's health.
Good questions to ask should include: do you feel supported by your manager and other members of staff? Are work communications clearly communicated? Do you feel content in your work? Etc, etc. Allowing employers to expand upon these questions, outside of Yes/No answers, should also be encouraged to gain as full a picture as possible. This should help you to determine issues your employees face, areas where improvement is possible and anything that may be hazardous to your employee's mental wellbeing in the workplace.
2) Help Employees Identify Risk
Mental health is not as easy to spot as a physical ailment. There’s no tell-tale sneezing to identify depression like there is a cold, no bruising to indicate stress like there is with physical accidents, nor does anxiety appear like a rash, red and angry. Instead, these issues often go unnoticed by the physical eye until they culminate in other issues; time off, loss of productivity and perhaps even the loss of the employee altogether if they choose to leave as a result.
As a result, it is important that you encourage all employees to understand and be able to recognise these issues independently. You should also encourage them to seek help whenever possible outside of work. Giving them information and facts on how to seek this help is also invaluable.
Brochures, posters and other materials around the office highlighting mental health issues (and their solutions) can go a long way to helping with this issue.
3) Keep That Work/Life Balance in Mind
Time and money create increasing pressures in the modern world. Feeling bereft of both, many people work harder and longer than ever before to seek and achieve the same level of achievement as their parents and grandparents. This can be extremely taxing on the all-important work/life balance that everyone should be striving for.
As such, it is important as a business that you be aware and proactive when it comes to ensuring your team is not overworking. Sacrificing quality time with family and friends should never be encouraged, especially by you as the employer. Is there someone who is always first in and last out of the office? Have you noticed the team working a lot of additional hours to meet a particular deadline? Ultimately, you need to send a clear message to staff members that, although appreciated, this behaviour is not good for them and should be as limited as possible.
Risk factors, once identified, should be addressed and workloads should be spread out, working hours should be made more flexible and you should prevent staff from replying to calls/emails/messages outside of office hours to reduce working outside of office hours. Healthy incentives such as gym memberships, fruit mornings or likewise should be introduced in order to try and promote as healthy a staff as possible.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of reasons that poor mental health might become prevalent in the workplace, especially if your workers are all part of a high-stress industry. Sometimes you can’t avoid it, but you should be able to help train your staff in order to help manage it and make sure that it does not cause any bigger issues.
Mental wellbeing and self-esteem can be affected by a number of things - including cosmetic treatments and home life - but, it is vital that you make their work life as stress-free and balanced as possible in order to make the best possible environment possible.