Maintaining mental health is vital for all areas of any person’s life, and this is particularly pertinent when considering areas where you spend a considerable amount of time (such as work and at home). Mental health can have a significant impact on your quality of life, both positively and negatively and it affects various areas of our lives such as physical health, overall wellbeing, and productivity both in and out of the workplace.
Studies and analyses published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) claim that work can be very positive and fruitful when it comes to helping us improve overall mental health. However, working in a ‘negative’ environment can cause problems with this.
Why Is Mental Health in the Workplace Important?
Poor mental health can have adverse effects on quality of life. It can lead to isolation and can stop people from going about their normal, everyday lives in peace. Not only can poor mental health be important for personal quality of life, it can also have a considerable impact upon productivity at work. According to WHO, depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion a year in productivity and also leads to more people requiring psychotherapy services. Hence, improving mental health in the workplace is not only vital to ensure the wellbeing of employees, but also to boost productivity throughout any business.
How Can I Identify Mental Health Problems?
Issues with your mental health can show up in many different ways, with different conditions having different symptoms. Some surprisingly common issues that can come with poor mental health include the following:
- Altered mood
- Unable to go about your normal life
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawal from friends and family
Symptoms of poor mental health can also come out more clearly in the workplace and may present themselves as absenteeism, fatigue, making more mistakes or struggling to find motivation altogether. Employees struggling with this may also isolate themselves from other colleagues, become slower at work, sometimes even halting productivity altogether.
These are just some of the symptoms which can present themselves in the workplace. Mental illness can present itself in many forms and whilst some people in such circumstances can become more fatigued and isolated, others can become more chaotic and manic and take on more work than manageable.
What Can Cause Poor Mental Health in the Workplace?
There are many different elements of the workplace environment that can contribute to an employee’s poor mental health. Some of the main risks to employee mental health include the following:
- A lack of employee support
- Non-flexible working hours
- Poor management and communication
- Lack of resources for the task at hand
- Inabilities to spot initial signs of potential mental health issues
For a business, it is important to create an environment that supports the wellbeing of all of its employees, which helps to better staff retention and promote productivity. Both bullying and harassment are also common problems reported by employees, and have been shown to impact mental health substantially. The WHO have found that “Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health or workers”
And further that “These health consequences can have costs for employers in terms of reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They can also have a negative impact on family and social interactions.” With so many complications arising from poor mental health in the workplace, it can therefore be crucial for a business to ensure they provide an environment that supports its employees and their mental health.
How Can Businesses Improve Employee Wellbeing at Work?
Businesses can help to promote their employees’ wellbeing and mental health within the workplace in a variety of ways. One of the main ways in which businesses can achieve this is through reducing the causative factors for work-related issues from occurring or at least rising to dangerous levels.
For example, ensuring employees are in a supportive environment, provided with sufficient resources and receive clear communication from good management can all contribute towards helping eliminate work-related stress thereby preventing unhealthy levels of stress and anxiety developing.
Flexible Working and Mental Health
Introducing flexible hours and a flexible work ethic can also be a great way to make a workforce feel more appreciated and in control of their work-life balance, able to fit their work around their own personal schedule (to an extent) which can help to reduce work-related stress and increase productivity, as employees will be more likely to work during the hours they feel most productive and relaxed.
How Can I Improve My Mental Health at Work?
Employees can also take some of their own measures to help promote mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Integrating exercise into your daily routine can help to reduce the level of stress hormones in the body and release endorphins to uplift people’s moods. By cycling or walking into work every day or as often as possible, employees can help to boost their mental wellbeing.
Maintaining a healthy diet and practicing mindfulness are two other great ways employees can promote wellbeing throughout their everyday lives, bringing a healthy lunch into work and taking a few minutes out of the day to practice mindfulness exercises can help to boost your mood and reduce stress.