5 Realistic Ways to Address Mental Health in the Workplace
Making a few simple changes to your policies and work procedures can help reduce work-related stressors.
Hustle culture is attractive to some people in the corporate world. It places work at the center of one's life and compels professionals to measure their worth based on productivity. While there is nothing inherently harmful about being productive, this mentality pressures employees to take on heavier workloads and longer hours to the detriment of their mental health.
Fortunately, businesses are increasingly realizing that this approach to work is toxic and are taking steps to counter its adverse impact on their employees' mental health.
Below, we'll provide a brief guide to promoting mental health in the workplace and discuss several realistic initiatives companies can undertake. But first, let's discuss the benefits of a mentally healthy workforce.
The Importance of a Mentally Healthy Workforce
Mental health relates to an individual's social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Accordingly, employees with good mental health support can handle daily challenges, cope with stress, manage their emotions, work efficiently, and make positive contributions at work.
Promoting mental health at work benefits not only staff members but the business as well. Good mental health leads to improved employee engagement, higher productivity, better work quality, reduced rates of absenteeism, positive working relationships among colleagues, and lower employee turnover.
Companies, therefore, should invest in mental health initiatives if they want to build a high-performing and loyal workforce.
(Find out How Planning and Worker Engagement Can Reduce Your Operational Costs)
Common Causes of Work-Related Mental Health Issues
To address mental health problems in the workplace, you should first identify their causes. The following working conditions will generally be detrimental to the well-being of employees.
1. Inadequate Safety Measures
A robust occupational health and safety program can help safeguard your staff. Hence, it's vital to ensure that you have proper and practical safety rules and measures in place.
When evaluating your workplace, consider these questions:
- Are your workers handling hazardous products or using outdated equipment?
- Is your workplace overcrowded, poorly lit, improperly ventilated, or filthy?
- Are safety incidents common?
- Are there any unresolved safety complaints or concerns?
Unsafe working conditions trigger stress and uncertainty in employees. Because of this, inadequate health and safety measures not only puts your staff's physical health at risk, but their mental well-being as well.
2. Ineffective Communication from Management
A good manager-employee relationship involves empathetic and engaged communication. When there is a lack of communication from management, relationships between employees and company leaders becomes strained, resulting in job dissatisfaction.
3. Insufficient Assistance
Managers who withhold critical information or fail to provide assistance to those who need it can cause employees to feel undervalued, overworked, and unmotivated. All supervisors and managers should guide their teams through complex or confusing tasks rather than expecting them to figure everything out independently.
4. Performance Pressure
Many employees are under unreasonable pressure to perform at high levels at times. Not only is this a pressure a source of stress, but it can also push workers to work longer hours, which can quickly lead to burnout.
5. Lack of Job Security
Job losses have accelerated in recent years, due primarily to the pandemic. This is a major source of anxiety for workers who worry that their job might disappear virtually overnight, leaving them incapable of paying bills, taking care of their family, or simply having to undergo a stressful job search.
(Learn more about Managing Employee Burnout to Reduce Deadly Accidents)
Practical Solutions for Promoting Mental Health at Work
1. Foster a Positive Work Environment
Cultivating a positive and inclusive work environment can support open communication, minimize stress, and build a mentally fit workforce. To achieve this, be sure to:
- Recognize each employee's contributions to the business, acknowledge their achievements, and reward them accordingly.
- Invest in career development and training programs for each and every staff member.
- Conduct team-building activities to foster better working relationships.
- Encourage employees to provide feedback and share ideas. This not only provides you with valuable insights, but will also make them feel valued and more engaged in their work.
- Remind staff members to use their paid vacation time, since doing so will reduce their risk of burnout.
- Prohibit after-hours work communication and avoid contacting employees when they are on leave.
2. Provide Greater Flexibility
Adhering to strict and rigid employment arrangements will place additional stress on your employees and can negatively affect their mental health.
Be understanding of workers who need accommodations and look for ways to give every employee more flexibility. Offering remote or hybrid work opportunities can help you accommodate employees who must stay at home and take care of familial responsibilities. These opportunities can also increase job satisfaction and improve the well-being of employees who simply work better outside the office.
Ask your staff about their preferred work arrangements and implement modifications that will better suit their needs.
(Learn more in Got Staff Working Remotely? Using Your Working Alone Procedures During COVID-19)
3. Reevaluate Roles and Responsibilities
Employees overburdened with tasks can feel overwhelmed and mentally drained. Meanwhile, those who have too few responsibilities are likely to find their work dull and insufficiently challenging. In either case, this can lead them to believe they aren't respected or valued at work.
Audit all the current roles and job descriptions in your company. Assess how well those responsibilities are distributed and determine which positions can benefit from either a decrease or an increase in duties.
4. Ensure Timely Salary Disbursement
Your employees have regular financial obligations that must be met on time. Therefore, it is important to ensure that each of them receives their pay on time.
Salary disputes cause unnecessary stress, especially if the process of contesting is complicated and time-consuming. Delays in payroll can also cause employees to miss bill payments or encounter other financial troubles, which can be a significant source of anxiety.
To avoid this, make sure your payroll administration is seamless and predictable.
5. Maintain a Clean Working Environment
This recommendation may seem trivial, but your staff needs a clean and comfortable work environment. It's hard to focus in a disorderly workspace filled with clutter and distractions. Files get misplaced, materials are difficult to locate, and various small annoyances can build into a substantial amount of stress.
By contrast, a clean working environment is relaxing and boosts productivity. A well-kept filing system gives your staff peace of mind that all the paperwork they need will be accessible and easy to find. Plus, an organized office is pleasing to the eyes and can inspire greater motivation.
(Check out these Tips for Implementing a 5S Strategy in Your Workplace)
Sound Mind, Sound Performance
While the simple initiatives discussed above can help promote mental health, it's critical to provide your staff with an employee assistance program that allows them to seek help for mental health concerns.
Some employees may also need ongoing medication and therapy, so consider including mental health coverage in their healthcare benefits. Also, consider allowing paid leave for workers to make it to appointments and therapy sessions. Doing so will help your staff prioritize their mental well-being.
To take your mental health initiative a step further, consider collaborating with a local psychologist to help you spot burnout and offer free counseling and life coaching on-site. You may also facilitate support groups that let your employees discuss workplace mental health and share their experiences.
Remember, to perform well, your employees not only need to be physically capable of carrying out their work but also be in a good state of mind. Therefore, you should make their mental well-being a priority. Investing in it will benefit them as well as the company.
Written by Jeffrey Cassells | Content Strategist and Consultant
Jeffrey is a content strategist and consultant for Shegerian & Associates.