Enhancing employee mental health is an important priority of any organization and a talent management goal. An enterprise must consider employees’ mental well-being as a business imperative, and take the necessary steps to improve mental health at the workplace. A happy employee thrives in various areas of their life, which in turn guarantees better work performance and contributes to the overall success of a business.
Why is employee mental health important for an organization?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 264 million people across the globe suffer from depression, and even more suffer from anxiety disorders. According to WHO, depression and anxiety attacks lead to a yearly global loss of $1 trillion. A toxic work environment is a major contributing factor to mental ill health, and can lead to alcohol and substance usage, and a loss in productivity for businesses.
On the other hand, a workplace that promotes employees’ mental well-being is more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and enjoy higher economic gains. According to WHO, for every $1 a business invests in employee mental health programs, they reap a return of $4 thanks to improved health and productivity.
Work-related mental health risk factors
A working environment can pose various risks to employees’ mental well-being, with most of them related to the type of work, the skills and competencies of an employee, the managerial and organizational structures, and the support an employee receives. For example, an employee might have the necessary skills but lack the needed support or resources to complete the tasks.
Assigning an employee to tasks ill-suited to their capabilities or giving them an unreasonably high workload is likely to result in their mental health deteriorating. Bullying and physical assault (also known as mobbing) are other possible causes of trauma in the workplace. These issues are what make a workplace toxic, resulting in reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They also create a negative impact on employees’ social life and their workplace interactions.
Workplace factors that are likely to impact mental health negatively include:
- A Lack of proper mental health policies
- Flawed management practices that have negative consequences for employees
- Unclear task assignation or lack of good communication
- Insufficient support from the management and other employees
- Bullying and physical harassment in the workplace
- Limited participation or exclusion from decision-making in one’s area of work
How can you improve mental health and wellbeing in the workplace?
A healthy work environment is a basic stepping stone towards growth in any organization. Managers are now taking various steps and implementing initiatives to ensure employees’ mental wellbeing. Here are a few initiatives to improve employee mental health.
When we talk about diversity in the workspace, we often discuss race, gender, and social diversity. eurodiversity must become a key part of this discussion as well. Understanding neurodiversity means embracing the fact that different people think, learn and work differently. There is no fixed “right” way of behaving or processing information, and differences should not be viewed negatively, or compared with the “usual” ways of thinking and learning.
For example, while many people associate bright light with happiness and good feelings, people suffering from migraines or photophobia struggle under bright lights and might need darker rooms to function in their day-to-day life. Employees on the autism spectrum might have difficulties adjusting to new or constantly changing spaces, and work environments should try to accommodate them as much as possible.
Promote work-life balance
Work-life balance holds the key to sound mental health. Management must encourage employees to unplug and find time for their personal care and interests, to ensure their mental well-being and create a productive mindset. Team members must be encouraged to manage their time well rather than count the time spent working as their only motivation. Managers must facilitate breaks during work hours and allow staff to take time off for their personal needs without the fear of judgment. Unrealistic goals, toxic work culture, packed schedules, absent leadership, and burgeoning workloads all adversely impact both physical and mental health and well-being.. The employees need to feel comfortable enough to switch off from work and spend time on self care and with their loved ones when they feel the need to.
Keep track of the current mental health situation
Before devising any mental health and wellness measures, it’s vital to understand where an organization stands on the issue at present. The managers must conduct employee mental health surveys which includes questions to understand the current mental health status and needs of their employees and take in their opinions on the existing workplace programs. These surveys will help you gauge what employees actually need, which may differ from the management’s preconceived notions. Thinking about health policies from an employee perspective rather than a managerial level should be the approach. Mental health policies must suit employees of all levels, which is why first understanding their personal needs is crucial.
Give employees opportunities to identify and solve workplace crises
Including the employees in initiatives that improve the workplace environment also improves their well-being. A study that consisted of doctors, physician assistants, and nurses, stated that employees who took part in identifying and addressing workplace issues had a lesser burnout rate and an increase in job satisfaction. The possibility of these employees leaving the organization was less likely, which boosted the enterprise’s employee retention efforts.
Include mental health coverage in insurance policies
Insurance plans that cover mental health and well-being are incredibly relevant and important for employees. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only 43% of adults who suffer from mental struggles receive proper care. Making mental health policies a part of the company’s very DNA is more pressing than ever. As per a survey by Gallop, 64% of the US workforce takes mental health benefits into consideration when deciding to join an organization.
Any forward-looking organization should offer its employees inclusive and well-designed mental health programs. The management should also implement relevant policies, resources, and training to foster a thriving work environment. They must offer better support and go for health insurance programs that cover psychological conditions along with physical ones.
Give employees more control over their work
According to research from the BMJ, employees with less control over their work face a greater risk of mental health struggles and an increased possibility of heart disease. A combination of a heavy workload and less control has turned out to be deadly, resulting in a higher risk of diabetes and death from cardiovascular illness. A small change in working patterns will create a massive impact. Employees who have greater control over their own work show tremendous improvement in their well-being and job performance.
An inclusive work atmosphere plays a crucial role in creating a mentally healthy workplace. Inequality and discrimination in the organization often lead to deteriorating mental health, prompting employees to leave their jobs. According to American Psychological Association’s (APA) Work and Well-being Survey 2021, employees from oppressed races or the LGBTQIA+ community, along with disabled people, are more likely to leave their job after facing discrimination. Diversity in the workplace, particularly at the managerial level, drives inclusivity and productivity at all levels of the organization. An inclusive workspace ensures better participation from all employees, making way for more creative ideas and improving overall organizational health. By creating sound policies and providing practical tools and resources to develop diversity and inclusion, employees are more likely to contribute meaningfully.
Break social stigmas
Prioritizing mental health becomes even more relevant in the face of the stigma around it that still exists in society. But this isn’t an insurmountable challenge for an organization to handle. Starting at the leadership level, an enterprise can change their outlook on mental health and break the stigma within their organization. With a company culture that prioritizes employee mental health, employees will become more comfortable in their work environment, and show an increase in productivity. In the long run, enterprises that care about the well-being of their employees are more likely to enjoy increased productivity and a positive work culture, outcomes prized by business leaders across the world.
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