Mental Health does not have to be an uncomfortable and awkward topic at the office. It deserves the same amount of importance as any other facet of health.
The professional balance that is required to be maintained at all times can present a conundrum for colleagues when they are trying to offer or seek help.
The implications of prevailing mental health issues, however, can not and (rather) should not be ignored.
What it means?
Dealing with mental health issues in the workplace could mean:
- Tackling a pre-existing mental illness
- Learning to cope with stress when work feels overwhelming
- Coming to terms with a colleague when work friendships go bad
- Handling office politics that severely affect mental health
- A combination of any of them
Why it is important?
Mental Health issues can have direct repercussions on an individual’s productivity. This goes against the best interests of both the individual as well the organisation. More often than not, intervention happens once employee performance starts to dip. This can impact the morale and confidence of the employee if he/she/they are already in a poor mental health state.
Supporting good performance is an important management skill. It is the employer who ultimately misses out by losing valuable talent. The employer also stands to lose countless hours of productivity to the drama that lack of support can cause.
Not to mention the enormous economic impact that inaction can cause. Depression and anxiety alone lead to an estimated cost to the global economy of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
According to the WHO, A negative working environment may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances or alcohol, absenteeism and lost productivity. Workplaces that promote mental health and support people with mental disorders are more likely to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and benefit from associated economic gains.
What can you do?
As an employee
Work-related stress, if prolonged, can lead to both physical and psychological damage. It is best to attempt to understand what is causing distress and communicate that to the right person. A good idea might be consulting the in-house counsellor.
If any of your colleagues seem to be more stressed than usual, try to talk to them in private and let them know that you are there for them. They may not be willing to talk to you then, but they should know that there is someone they can rely on.
As the employer
The task at hand, here, is to help employees navigate through the arduous journey of continuing their work post or during a mental illness. The intention is to help make it easier for people to seek help and support, and encourage others to be supportive too.
In order to do so, adjustments could be made on the professional front. These could be in the form of:
- Providing them with a more flexible working schedule
- Re-evaluating their responsibilities in accordance with their viewpoint
- Opening up the channel of communication further with the manager to address any difficulties or issues
- Creating prevention, identification, support strategies that cater to the overall mental health and well being of all employees, at all levels
- Applying stricter rules to deal with any form of harassment and/or bullying
- Aggregating all sources and means of help, support and recourse available
- Addressing issues, if any, with respect to performance rather than personality of the employee
- Promoting a work environment that fosters mental health along with physical health
On a more holistic, perhaps personal level, it is necessary to ensure that:
- All mental health problems get addressed, regardless of the cause
- Employees feel comfortable enough in asking for help and support
- Individual employee situations are taken into consideration; how the symptoms make them feel; how it affects their work; whether they are receiving any medical treatment and support; whether that treatment is good or not and what they think would help them at work.
HSE’s Management Standards approach to tackling work-related stress establishes a framework to help employers tackle work-related stress and, as a result, also reduce the incidence and negative impact of mental ill health.
Lack of education in the field of mental health, contributes to the stigma. Thus leading to neglect and deterioration, affecting employees and organisations equally.
The simplest, most effective way to combat pent-up thoughts and issues is to temporarily relieve oneself through a cathartic release of any kind of stress, personal or professional.
It is alright to be struggling and going through a hard time. It is not, however, alright to abandon yourself when you need help. And asking for help should not be made to feel like a Herculean task.
“Dependence starts when we are born and lasts until we die. We accept our dependence as babies and ultimately, with varying degrees of resistance, we accept help when we get to the end of our lives. But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those that help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help. Given enough resources, we can even pay for help and create the mirage that we are completely self-sufficient. But the truth is that no amount of money, influence, resources, or determination will change our physical, emotional, and spiritual dependence on others.”― Brené Brown