The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, making the workplace one of the most important factors for well-being. Since it’s impossible to entirely set apart work and personal life, a person’s emotional, psychological, or social wellness can easily affect their job efficiency.
That raises the issue of what mental health in the workplace is, how it affects work productivity, and what employers are doing about it.
In simple terms, mental health in the workplace is taking care of the well-being of employees. Ignorance and misinformation have kept this “issue” concealed for a long time, creating the sense that it’s a private matter.
However, as the stigma surrounding it begins to clear up, employers are left wondering what their next step should be in a work environment.
Mental health affects how people think, feel, and behave, so poor mental balance can significantly reduce cognitive and physical ability. That leads to lower productivity, resulting in serious financial repercussions. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, depression and anxiety cost the global economy one trillion U.S. dollars per year.
Although work can be good for the overall employee welfare, a poor working environment does the opposite. Stress, deadlines, and excessive workload contribute to an already declining mental health. And not being able to talk about it or address it as a health issue can further exacerbate the symptoms.
Hence, the importance of mental health in the workplace goes both ways. The end goal is to have both happy employees and a thriving business.
Mental health is as important as physical health.
But employees often feel shame and alienation when they experience poor mental stability in the office. Eventually, this decreases work morale and efficiency.
So, to talk about mental health awareness, the HR department first needs to change the perception of it being something negative.
It’s important to promote mental health awareness in the workplace by reducing stigmatization internally. And companies should opt for the three-step approach: conversation, action, and support.
The stigma around mental health prevents eight in ten employees from reaching out for help.
Hence, employers must learn how to reduce mental health stigma in the workplace by talking openly about it. Although they can’t treat mental health issues, they can change the narrative from shame to support.
Encouraging an open conversation is a great start, but showing respect is equally important. Everyone from leadership to employees should pay close attention to their language. Out-of-place comments, however small or good-natured, can often worsen the issue.
Another way to reduce the stigma is to lead by example. Bosses and managers must practice what they preach and talk about their well-being. That paves the way for others to do the same, thus reducing the fear and agitation around the subject.
Opening up about one’s well-being unravels many great possibilities on how to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace. The key to getting the best results is for both employers and employees to take action.
Employers should honor their “duty of care” and create a safe environment where everyone can talk about mental health care.
Managers and supervisors can promote a healthy work-life balance, provide educational brochures and phone numbers for helplines or organize workshops and training at all employment levels.
Additionally, employers and HR can implement policies with health plans that cover mental well-being to promote awareness.
Employees have responsibilities toward their coworkers as much as the leadership. They should be open-minded about other people’s feelings, reach out and offer peer support.
Colleagues can also contribute by sharing their personal experiences, actively participating in behavioral-health workshops, and encouraging employers to provide them when needed.
The final step is to offer support by initiating sound mental health programs based on the employees‘ needs.
Employee assistance programs (EAP) and resource groups are great for removing financial barriers. Onsite health centers or telehealth for those working remotely are also valid options. Big corporations like Facebook offer free access to therapists covered by their employee medical plan. Google employs a wellness manager and resilience lead, while Microsoft has the extensive “Microsoft CARES” EAP.
However, companies are also opening to the idea of non-traditional benefits. Some of those include free access to meditation and mindfulness apps, yoga classes, and free stress management sessions.
Whether it’s flexible work conditions, extended vacations days, or counseling, companies should include mental health programs as part of their employee health plan.