Mental Health in the Workplace

Caleb Ihuarulam

Caleb Ihuarulam

Mental Health in the Workplace
We spend most of our adult lives working. Hence, it follows that our work will influence the quality of our lives – including our Mental Health in the Workplace. Mental well-being impacts productivity, job satisfaction, and overall happiness.

When mental health in the workplace is mentioned, many think about it abstractly or absent-mindedly. Some even parrot some regular phrases used to encourage those suffering from mental health issues like “get help”, “see a therapist”, or take a break” as their proof of knowledge of the concept.

The reality remains stark. Mental health issues do not remain hidden from the surface. Some of them transform into observable physical symptoms. Take Janet for example, whom we spoke to in November 2022.

“The pandemic that happened in 2020 was also terrible for me. I didn’t even know how badly it had affected me. I started having some physical symptoms like hormonal surges. An excruciating physical pain affected my work, and my journey to the hospital began. I moved from one specialist to another, doing test after test, and the results came out clear. They said nothing was wrong with me. I got bothered even more.”

Read More:Link to Janet’s story

Janet is one of many people for whom mental health is not only an abstract phenomenon. Janet has provided reasons why employees should care. The other question is this: why should employers, HR teams and business leaders care about their people’s mental health?

What to know about Mental Health in the Workplace

Experiences and reactions to mental health issues will differ from person to person. A few people can find a way to thrive under the burden while they seek help. Others may find it overwhelming.

Acknowledging this diversity of experiences is essential to fostering a compassionate workplace. Encouraging open conversations and destigmatizing mental health struggles can help create an inclusive atmosphere where employees feel comfortable seeking support.

What Employers, HR teams and Employees should know about mental health in the workplace

Building a mentally safe workspace is a shared responsibility. Leadership and employees should collectively build a mentally safe workspace. The following should form the basis of any approach to building an effective workspace:

The Environment Matters

The workplace environment plays a significant role in influencing mental health. Workload, work-life balance, and interpersonal dynamics all contribute to an employee’s well-being. Organizations can foster mental health by encouraging a balance between work and personal life, providing flexibility, and nurturing personal growth, thus creating a supportive environment.

Mental Health Triggers are Present Everywhere

Triggers are situations or events that can trigger mental health issues. Identifying these triggers is crucial for both individuals and organizations. Common workplace triggers include excessive workloads, lack of control or autonomy, and poor communication. By recognizing and addressing these triggers, organizations can help prevent mental health issues from escalating.

A Collective Approach Beats an Individual One

Addressing mental health issues in the workplace requires a collective effort. Encouraging a supportive and empathetic work culture can foster a sense of belonging among employees. By fostering strong relationships and providing avenues for peer support, organizations can create a network of care that benefits everyone. You can learn more about how to create policies that support employee mental health in the workplace in this ultimate guide

Mental health Triggers in the Workplace

Today’s work environment is fast-paced. That’s why it’s crucial to identify mental health triggers twice as fast. Remember, individual experiences can vary, and triggers affect people differently. Below are some common triggers:

Workload and Stress: An unusual amount of work for an extended period can lead to stress. Prolonged stress as well as other work-related factors can negatively impact mental health.

Work-Life Imbalance

Maintaining a clear line between work and life creates satisfaction. Excessive focus on work can blur this line and upset the balance. Long working hours, lack of flexibility, and insufficient time for self-care or leisure activities can contribute to this imbalance.

Poor Work Relationships

Positive working relationships between employees can aid good mental well-being. Negative interactions like bullying, harassment, or discrimination, can create a hostile environment that impacts mental health negatively.

Lack of Support

Companies are supposed to work as teams. There are levels of support that employees expect from their superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Inadequate support from supervisors or colleagues can make employees feel isolated. When this lingers, individuals can feel undervalued, or overwhelmed.

Job Insecurity

Fear of losing one’s job leads to insecurity. Experiencing frequent layoffs and uncertainty regarding career advancement can cause chronic stress and anxiety. This in turn can affect mental well-being.

Lack of Autonomy

Micromanagement and lack of control over one’s work can make employees feel undervalued. Autonomy can enhance motivation, nurture creativity and promote innovation. Organizations can use autonomy to create an environment that values and empowers individuals. This leads to leading to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and success. Autonomy in the workplace is vital for fostering a positive work culture.

Organizational Culture

An unhealthy work environment characterized by a lack of transparency, ineffective communication and low morale. A culture that doesn’t prioritize employee well-being can contribute to stress.

Physical Work Environment

Factors such as excessive noise, poor lighting, lack of privacy, or inadequate ventilation can contribute to stress and impact mental well-being.

Unrealistic Expectations

Setting unrealistic goals, having unreasonable performance expectations, or experiencing constant pressure to exceed productivity standards can lead to stress, burnout, and other mental health challenges.

Change and Uncertainty

In a fast-paced work environment, change and uncertainty are inevitable. When handled well, change and uncertainty can lead to some positive benefits like creating opportunities for growth for employees. However, the lack of a proper change management plan can be disastrous. Abrupt organizational changes, restructuring, or job transitions can create uncertainty, anxiety, and stress among employees, affecting their mental health.

Workplaces vary greatly, and some organizations prioritize employee well-being and have implemented measures to address these triggers. However, recognizing and addressing these common triggers is crucial for promoting a mentally healthy work environment.

Read More: Other Triggers for mental health issues

Some Signs of Common Mental Health Challenges in the Workplace

It’s important to note that these signs can vary from person to person, and not everyone will exhibit all of them. Additionally, these signs can also be indicative of other factors, so it’s crucial to consider the context and individual circumstances.

If you notice these signs in yourself or a colleague, it may be helpful to offer support, encourage open communication, and consider seeking assistance from human resources, employee assistance programs, or mental health professionals to address workplace stress effectively.

Burnout

burnout in the workplace

Depression

Depression in the work place

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can significantly impact a person’s well-being, including their performance in the workplace. Here are some common signs and symptoms of depression that may be observed in the workplace:

1. Persistent Sadness and Hopelessness:

– Feeling persistently sad, empty, or emotionally down

– Experiencing a sense of hopelessness or pessimism

– Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, including work-related tasks

2. Fatigue and Low Energy:

– Feeling constantly tired, physically drained, or lacking energy

– Difficulty staying focused or completing tasks due to low energy levels

– Noticeable decrease in productivity or work efficiency

3. Changes in Sleep Patterns:

– Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)

– Excessive sleeping or feeling overly tired despite getting enough sleep

– Frequent awakenings during the night

4. Irritability or Restlessness:

– Increased irritability, impatience, or agitation

– Difficulty staying calm or finding it hard to control one’s emotions

– Restlessness or difficulty sitting still

5. Difficulty Concentrating and Making Decisions:

– Decreased ability to concentrate or remember details

– Slowed thinking or difficulty making decisions

– Reduced problem-solving skills or difficulty finding solutions to work-related challenges

6. Feelings of Worthlessness or Guilt:

– Persistent feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

– Self-critical thoughts or a belief of being a burden to others

– Ruminating on past failures or mistakes

7. Changes in Appetite or Weight:

– Significant weight loss or gain without intentional changes in diet

– Changes in appetite, such as increased or decreased eating

– Noticing a decrease in enjoyment of food or loss of interest in eating

8. Withdrawal from Social Interactions:

– Avoiding social interactions with colleagues or isolating oneself

– Loss of interest in engaging with others or participating in work-related activities

– Feeling disconnected from coworkers or experiencing strained relationships

9. Physical Symptoms:

– Frequent headaches, body aches, or digestive issues

– Increased sensitivity to physical pain or aches

– Persistent physical complaints without an apparent medical cause

10. Thoughts of Death or Suicide:

– Recurrent thoughts of death, dying, or suicidal ideation

– Expressing feelings of hopelessness or a desire to escape

– Talking about or making plans for self-harm or suicide

It’s important to note that experiencing a few of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate depression. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing several of these signs persistently and it interferes with daily functioning, it is essential to seek professional help from a mental health provider.

HRs Teams and Business Owners/Decision Makers

In the workplace, creating a supportive environment, promoting mental health initiatives, and offering employee assistance programs can contribute to the overall well-being of individuals and help address depression effectively.

Creating a Work Environment Optimized for Mental Health

Creating a Work Environment Optimized for Mental Health
HR departments and business leaders play a vital role in promoting mental health in the workplace. They can implement policies and initiatives that prioritize mental well-being. These include flexible working arrangements, mental health training for managers, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). Additionally, promoting awareness campaigns, organizing mental health workshops, and establishing confidential reporting systems can further support employees.

Make it Easy to Identify Triggers:

Identifying triggers is a crucial step in managing mental health in the workplace. Encouraging employees to self-reflect and communicate their triggers is vital. Organizations can provide resources such as workshops or training sessions to help employees recognize and manage their triggers effectively. Regular check-ins and open channels of communication can also help identify potential triggers at an organizational level.

Create a Mental Health Checklist

Creating a mental health checklist can assist both individuals and organizations in promoting well-being. This checklist may include strategies such as practising self-care, maintaining work-life balance, seeking support from colleagues or supervisors, and engaging in regular physical exercise. Regularly revisiting and updating the checklist ensures its continued effectiveness in supporting mental health.

Appropriate Response to Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

When mental health issues arise, it is essential to respond promptly and compassionately. Encouraging employees to seek professional help and providing access to mental health resources can facilitate their recovery journey. Flexible work arrangements, reasonable adjustments, and ongoing support can assist employees in managing their mental health while maintaining their productivity.

Get a Healthcare plan with robust mental health coverage

Like healthcare, mental health still remains a touchy issue approached with a lot of privacy. Many companies buy healthcare plans for their employees that give them access to a medical professional during health emergencies. To foster a healthy workplace and effectively signal to current employees and future talents that an organization prioritizes mental health, a healthcare plan with an elaborate mental health plan is in order. Reliance HMO offers extensive healthcare coverage driven by technology that includes well-planned mental health support for organizations. Organizations looking to join or migrate to Reliance HMO can request a quote or speak to an agent.

Conclusion:

Creating a mentally healthy workplace is a shared responsibility. By acknowledging the diverse experiences of individuals, identifying triggers, and adopting a collective approach, organizations can foster an environment that promotes mental well-being.

Employees should take the initiative to keep track of their mental health. Regular self-assessment as well as establishing personal measures to help them stay in top mental and physical shape will go a long way.

HR departments and business leaders have a crucial role to play in championing mental health initiatives and providing the necessary support systems. With a supportive workplace culture, organizations can help their employees thrive both personally and professionally, leading to increased job satisfaction.

Get a comprehensive health plan with mental health for your organization here

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Caleb Ihuarulam

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