The Role of Mental Health in the Workplace
30 Apr, 2024

Mental Health – Why Workplaces Need to Pay Attention

With company culture and people prioritisation a norm in talent attraction, organisations today are investing not just in perks and benefits, but a structured approach to employee satisfaction that addresses employee well-being alongside physical health and safety.

Understanding Mental Health

Mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness; various factors, including genetics, environment, and life experiences influence it. The impact of mental health can be felt across every aspect of our lives, including our relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. Poor mental health can lead to a range of challenges, including decreased productivity, strained relationships, and increased mental health risks and disorders such as anxiety and depression. Recognising the importance of mental health is the first step towards promoting well-being and preventing these negative outcomes.

The Impact of Mental Health on Workplace Safety

In today’s deadline-driven working world, mental health in the workplace has emerged as a critical aspect of overall well-being. It is the cornerstone of a productive workforce, encompassing our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and affecting how we think, feel, and act. Yet, mental health safety is often still overlooked or stigmatised in comparison with physical safety. Poor mental health can impair focus and decision-making, increasing workplace accidents.

Identifying Mental Health Risks in the Workplace

The challenge lies in being able to identify when employees have crossed from positive mental wellbeing to negative mental wellbeing, and implementing measures to help them manage difficult or stressful periods.

Breaking the Stigma

One of the biggest barriers to seeking help for mental health issues is the stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigma often leads to shame, silence, and reluctance to seek support, perpetuating a cycle of suffering in silence. It’s essential to challenge stigma by fostering open and supportive conversations about mental health and advocating for greater access to mental health resources and services.

Strategies for Promoting Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

Promoting mental health involves taking proactive steps to maintain emotional resilience and cope with life’s challenges effectively.

Here are some practical strategies for nurturing mental health awareness in the workplace:

  • Workplace Support: Creating a supportive work environment means encouraging employees to express concerns without fear of judgment, and actively listening to their needs. Leaders can set the tone by normalising discussions about mental health, offering flexible work arrangements to reduce stress, and providing access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or mental health resources. Companies should host regular mental health days for employees to prioritise well-being. Mental Health Ambassadors, peer support contacts and team-building activities can also help to build camaraderie and reduce stress.
  • Mindfulness Practices: In the workplace, some companies have introduced “quiet hours,” “quiet rooms” or “pause spaces” to allow employees to have a break in the day to refocus, meditate or pray. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, guided meditation, or mindfulness-based stress reduction programmes can help employees to cultivate present-moment awareness and reduce rumination and worry.

How to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace

  • Self-Care: Encourage employees to prioritise self-care activities that promote relaxation and stress reduction, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies. Taking time for oneself is essential for replenishing mental energy and preventing burnout. Many companies offer employees lifestyle discounts for self-activities, or on-site grooming services to aid employees in prioritising self-care.
  • Social Support: Employees should be encouraged to cultivate meaningful connections with friends, family, and colleagues who provide emotional support and understanding. Social support acts as a buffer against stress and can significantly improve mental well-being.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Offer resources around maintaining a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and prioritising adequate sleep to support overall physical and mental health. A healthy lifestyle forms the foundation for mental well-being and resilience.
  • Seeking Help: Individuals should not hesitate to seek professional help if struggling with mental health challenges. Therapy, counselling, or support groups can provide valuable support and guidance in navigating difficult emotions and experiences.

By prioritising both mental health and workplace safety, we can keep making the world a safer place in which everyone is able to thrive emotionally, psychologically, and socially.