For many people, the workplace offers both rewards and challenges. There’s the pleasure of working alongside colleagues you like, as well as the satisfaction you get from a job well done.
But sometimes work demands can begin to feel overwhelming – particularly in workplaces where resources are already stretched thin, and employees feel expectations are unrealistic.
These factors can produce feelings of stress which take a toll on both employee and employer.
Paying the Price
Mental health plays a significant role in the workplace. Employers lose tens of billions of dollars each year as a result of employee absenteeism and non-productivity.
In the U.S., it’s estimated that extreme workplace stress results in over 100,000 deaths yearly, and creates health care costs of almost $190 billion yearly.
Extreme stress can cause:
- Brain structure damage, reduction of ability to manage future stress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Impaired immune function
- Onset of depression
Ending the Stigma
For generations, people struggling with mental health challenges had to suffer in silence. Mental health problems were ignored or misunderstood, and as a result, people experiencing these problems were shamed and stigmatized.
Employers have begun to understand the personal and professional costs of mental health issues, and they’re beginning to realize the positive impact of promoting mental wellness.
They are becoming proactive in providing opportunities for open discussion of mental wellness, and in encouraging employees who are experiencing challenges to seek support from mental health professionals.
Thankfully, public attitudes are changing, and this is being reflected in the workplace.
It makes sense: healthy workforces can help their companies be productive and thrive.
Recognizing Issues in the Workplace
As an employer or manager, it’s important to be aware of signs that an employee may be experiencing difficulty. They may:
- Make more errors in their work, have difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Seem especially sensitive or irritable
- Change their habits, for example being frequently absent, starting later than usual, working longer than necessary, skipping breaks
- Appear to be constantly fatigued or unwell
- No longer take care of their personal appearance
- Exhibit signs of drug or alcohol abuse
One or more of the above behaviors could be a sign that it’s time to initiate an open dialogue about possible reasons for these changes, and how they might be addressed.
Mental Health and Stress Management: What Employers Can Do
By being conscious of the impact of mental health issues in the workplace, and being open about it, organizations can make a positive impact. When employees get the message from their employers that they recognize the importance of mental wellbeing, it makes it easier for employees to talk about and deal with the issues they’re struggling with.
It helps employees:
- Develop coping strategies and manage stress
- Achieve their professional potential
- Be more productive
Employers can lower stress levels in the workplace by focusing on three areas:
- Train managers and supervisors in stress reduction methods
- Ensure employees have access to training that will allow them to succeed in their work
- Work with employee cooperation to establish job goals that are positive but realistic
- Openly discuss the importance of mental health and wellbeing
- Promote a healthy lifestyle, which includes the availability of healthy food onsite, and allowing time away from work areas, and providing opportunities for physical activity
- Communicate clearly and show respect when dealing with conflicts.
- Identify employee strengths, and put them to best use in ways that will allow employees to advance in their careers
- Provide fair compensation
- Ensure safe conditions on the job
- Demonstrate healthy work-life balance by example
- Ensure a work environment that prioritizes support and communication
- Highlight positive events and accomplishments in the workplace
- Offer screening for stress levels
- Provide information on reducing stress and recognition of warning signs of mental health difficulties.
- Offer intervention programs, including therapy, for managing stress
- Provide programs and activities that are known stress-reducers, like tai chi and yoga, while highlighting the value of exercise for mental health
- Give employees some online options for stress reduction strategies
Offer Targeted Support at the Individual Level
- Help employees access appropriate support and care
- Reach out to employees on disability
- Facilitate employee engagement with co-workers
- Create effective policies regarding returning to work and work transition
Conclusion: Why Mental Health is Important in the Workplace
Historically, people experiencing mental health challenges have been stigmatized. For many, the workplace can be a major source of stress.
With a growing understanding of the importance of mental wellbeing, employers have begun to recognize the significant role they can play in safeguarding the mental health of their employees, and positive and proactive workplace culture.
They’ve learned that a happy, productive workplace makes for a successful business.
Also Read- Why is Stress Management Important?