Is your organisation making the health and well-being of your staff a priority?
Many workplaces run initiatives every year that focus on the importance of health and safety at work, however it is just as important to provide a platform for your organisation to engage in activities, education and discussion about the importance of mental health within the workplace as well. This encourages people in your workplace to maximise their health potential, build resilience and improve recovery from mental health issues in the long term.
Why don't people talk about mental health?
Although awareness of mental health is increasing, we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination and can face challenges getting the help they need. Many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of other people’s responses.
When we create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about their mental health without fear and reach out for help.
So why is awareness of mental health in the workplace important?
Mental illness has a significant impact on our society individually, socially and economically.
An ‘unhealthy’ work environment or a workplace incident can cause considerable stress and increase or contribute to, the development of mental illness. Mental illness affects each person differently. This is why it is important for all individuals in the workplace to be aware of potential contributing factors to mental health issues and strategies to maintain a positive pathway to mental health and encourage early reporting of symptoms.
One of the major contributors to mental illness is a feeling of excessive stress. The risk factors differ in every workplace but commonly include individuals having a lack of autonomy in their role, poor job clarity, a lack of training/knowledge to do their role or working in isolation.
The following points may indicate that you or someone you work with may be struggling with their mental health:
- Constant feelings of sadness or discouragement;
- Sleeping issues
- A decline in your work habits or performance;
- Withdrawing from your work colleagues, friends & family;
- An increase in the use of alcohol, drugs or medications;
- Emotional outbursts;
- An increase in the intensity of work or family issues; and/or
- An increase in the severity of physical problems.
What can you do to take care of your mental health at work?
- Exercise – it is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and try to go for a walk on your lunch break, if possible.
- Have Positive connections and relationships - make sure to catch up with your friends or colleagues for a coffee and switch off when you leave work to enjoy quality time with friends and family.
- Sleep - To manage stress or information overloading, make sure that you are getting enough sleep.
- Planning – Plan your workload for the day so that you can prioritise important tasks and give yourself reasonable timelines to complete them.
- Focus on the present - tune in to your senses and intentionally listen to people.
- Ask for help - Lastly, remember that it is OK to ask for help when you need it.
Importantly, managers and workers both have an equal responsibility in building a safe work environment.
How can Employers Get Involved?
While tackling mental health can be challenging, employers and HR professionals are in a powerful position to help in the following ways:
- Increase Awareness - Give employees access to education and resources & develop the Company’s own initiatives and programs.
- Offer Training to Management - Provide opportunities for managers to attend training to support staff the well-being of all staff.
- Encourage Work-Life Balance - Consider offering flexible work options.
- Develop Mental Health Policies – are there policies to help prevent discrimination (including bullying and harassment) in the workplace & aim to prevent stigma around depression?
- Treat People Fair – treat employees fairly and the way they deserve to be treated.
- Provide Screening Resources - encourage participation in free and anonymous online screenings.
- Monitor Employee Engagement - Pay attention to employee engagement surveys. When people are engaged, they are positive and enthusiastic. All these factors can forecast positive well-being.
Today, more than ever, it’s so important to educate employees about mental health resources to avoid burnout & mental breakdowns. Companies who invest in the mental health of their people and encourage open discussion about mental health issues will also be creating a positive workplace and a place where people love to work. It’s a win-win situation.