HR trends

The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Tea Cvijanović

Removing the stigma of mental health at work

The topic of mental health is becoming more and more popular, and the internet has been swamped with articles dealing with it. The connection between stress, mental health, and the workplace became even “louder”; but essentially, the questions lingering in the air are: what does mental health even mean, and how is it connected with the working environment? The AWARENESS of mental health in the workplace and how stress and other factors affect employees are gaining more attention each day. What are the right methods of maintaining a healthy working atmosphere, and how can a company help talents who feel stressed?

These questions are addressed in the article with a dash of stress-prevention tips.

If you want to know how to keep your talents happy, this article is a great reading material for you.

What is Mental Health and How Does Stress Affect It In The Workplace?

Experts say mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.

This is the most general definition provided by the experts. Mental health determines the way we handle stress and make healthy choices, and it also defines our relationships with other people. Mental health is important to keep in balance in all the stages of life, not only in childhood or adolescence but throughout life generally.

Depending on one’s sensibility and stability, mental health will vary from person to person.

That means that people who cope with the stress factors better than the others might be aware of their mental health fragility and take care of it, or simply have better resilience to the stress around them. People who have problems with mental health do not necessarily have to have a mental illness but may suffer from certain disbalance issues in their private lives, so workplace stress affects them more than others.

A distressed talent can present certain symptoms which are more than just visible, in the sense that they can affect their work.

A talent might show symptoms of mood swings (tantrums, cheerfulness, depression, or maybe a rollercoaster of intense mood swings.

The symptoms are usually these:

- lack of energy

- sleep deprivation

- weak concentration

- poor performance

- seclusion from colleagues.

These are just a few of the existing symptoms but are the most common. If you notice any of these behaviors in your talent, it is time to be alarmed. Maybe your talent has issues in their private life, but keep in mind their mental health also might be affected by their workplace. If your talent suffers a mental illness, they might cope a bit harder with the stress, but that is another topic.

If your talent feels any of the stress factors mentioned (big workload, understaffed departments, low pay, bullying) that will affect their emotional state and their performance, which means their mental health is at risk.

Why is it so important? Because mental health affects physical health and vice versa.

If your talent is anxious, depressed, or in any way imbalanced mentally, they might start having physical issues that could turn into serious diseases (heart attack, diabetes, anorexia, obesity, stomach problems, migraines, etc.), which have to be treated in the long run.

These diseases can also be avoided; better be safe than sorry.

Stress Factors

A talent’s mental health can be affected by numerous reasons, which we call the stress factors.

Some of the most common stress factors are:

- work overload 

- inadequate pay

- bullying

- low work motivation

- organizational issues

- compromised company culture.

Workload overflow


Too much work can be the number one stress factor for talent.

Challenges are one thing, but if your talent struggles to finalize the amount of work in a certain time frame that exceeds their limit, it will definitely affect both their performance and their mental health.

If the work is organized, information communicated clearly among the individuals, and distributed properly, the workload will not exceed the limits of what can be accomplished.

Understaffed Teams and Departments, or the Company as a Whole

This issue can be directly linked to the workload overflow because if your team is understaffed, there will be even more work that will put pressure on your talents. If your company cannot hire more staff, your hired talents might consider giving up working for you, and you risk losing the fine individuals in your workforce.

Low Pay

This factor is probably the most popular among the greatest reasons why a talent will leave their job. Of course, if the talent feels underpaid and is working very hard and gets exhausted, you can’t expect them to feel good in that situation. Naturally, people lose motivation if they are underpaid, the productivity goes below the bar, and the company's operations suffer in quality. The fear of getting fired might keep them working for you, but not for long.

Of course, the latter behavior is not recommended if you want your company culture not to be affected by fear.

Bullying and Harassment

Experts define bullying and harassment as behavior that makes someone feel intimidated or offended.

Bullying and harassment in the workplace don’t just include physical or verbal offenses; they go much deeper than that.

One of the behaviors in these categories is undermining a talent or denying them the opportunity for development.

Unwanted behaviors such as that usually include harassment in the following categories:

- sexual orientation

- marital status

- disability (mental disabilities included)

- age

- sex

- religion

- race

- gender reassignment 

- privacy intrusion.

In such cases, no matter how insignificant these behaviors might seem, some talents decide to put up with them, resulting in those behaviors affecting their work and working motivation. Talents can even get physically ill after a period of time. However, their mental and emotional state will definitely suffer during the harassment or bullying process.

Communication with colleagues

Within companies that treasure teamwork as their number one method of work, it’s very important to nurture communication. If there are certain talents who don’t act like teammates, refuse to cooperate, or convey only half true or simply incorrect information in the business domain, they put a lot of pressure on the talents who are on the same project. If the communication doesn’t work well, the organization falls apart, and the project management process becomes chaotic. It puts a lot of pressure on the whole team or a few talents. It is impossible to avoid “dramas” when working with people for 8 hours a day, but if the communication among them doesn’t function, stress is guaranteed.

Organization

To take a cue from the last point, the organization goes hand in hand with communication.

If your teams and the whole company are not organized well, you will not have only a few talents stressed, but your whole workforce will be in a big nebula made of stress and anxiety. It’s not only that organizational deficit creates an extra meaningless pile of work, but it drains people mentally and emotionally.

Extrinsic motivation

Setting the stress-related intrinsic motivation aside, extrinsic motivation is the one that attracts or drives away people to or from every environment. The examples can include ”little things” such as unattractive interior design, uncomfortable chairs, poorly maintained toilets, heating or cooling devices not working, etc. These things won’t really make talents feel so stressed as they will make them feel annoyed and less motivated for work. When these small triggers cross the talent’s limits, the working atmosphere becomes more hostile.

Company culture

To put it simply: a badly managed company culture creates a bad atmosphere, and a bad atmosphere among the workforce creates plenty of stressed individuals. If your company culture is a competitive one, there is a guarantee you will have a lot of stressed talents who might even crack under emotional pressure after a while. Also, if your company culture is based on hierarchy, you might have “rebellious” talents or relationships that might include bullying based on hierarchy itself. 

Talents With Mental Illnesses

Experts claim that fifty percent of mental illness begins by age 14, and three-quarters begin by the age of 24.

Unfortunately, stress at the workplace especially affects talents with more serious mental health issues.

We are talking about illnesses such as depression, severe anxiety and panic attacks, OCD, PTSD, even schizophrenia, bipolar identity disorder, and other mental illnesses which affect identity.

In these cases, talents with such diseases might be even more stressed and might cope with that stress very turbulently. Especially if you are not aware of the conditions that talent has, or they didn’t tell you about it during the job interview.

Now let’s talk about something a bit tricky.

How to differ talents who are only stressed from the ones suffering from a mental condition?

The answer is simple yet a bit complex: using your powers of deduction in addition to intuitive cognition. To explain it: it means you should watch how your talent behaves and listen to your inner feeling, which might alarm you that something might not be as it should be.

You can’t know for sure unless you directly ask a talent if they have a mental condition, which is not decent behavior and is seen as offensive. But just to make it easier, here are a few ways to notice the changes in the talent’s emotional or behavioral state:

- More anxious or nervous (more than usual) is a sign something changed in the talent’s life and might create stress in them

- Mood changes, emotional escalations (from feeling excited to feeling sad in a short time span)

- Withdrawal (from colleagues, being silent or acting apathetic towards everyone)

- Lack of appetite or sleep deprivation (for example, you don’t have to see them eating or not eating on the break, if you notice weight loss in a short period of time, it is a clear sign of starving oneself)

- Problems in thinking or illogical conclusions related to work

- Increased sensitivity or temper tantrums

- Any unusual behavior the talent in question suddenly became prone to.

How to act and help the talents with mental illnesses or disorders?

The only thing you can do is ask them if they want to talk to you or refer them to visit the therapist. A great idea is to hire a professional psychologist in your company, which will be mentioned in the next chapter. At any rate, it is important to notice that something is wrong and show your interest in helping out.

How Can Companies Find Solutions and Help

There are several great tips and tricks you can try to help your talents cope with the stress, and even prevent dramatic catastrophes that might occur in the future.

Company psychologist

Having a professional who works in your company can aid greatly in the stress management of your talents, so that’s the first tip.

Counseling

If you can’t hire a psychologist, or some talents need another type of therapy, it is good to be aware of the benefits counseling can offer to your talents. Talk to them, suggest counseling or even organize the sessions for the talents, if your company is in the possibility of doing so. In short, it is okay to tell your workforce that if they need it, they can always get help.

Listening to music

Allow your talents to listen to music while they work. It will motivate them, relax them, and generally make them feel better. Music, soundscapes, and other ambiance and relaxing sounds aid greatly in concentrating and focusing on work with the extra feature - it can aid with diminishing the stress level.

Webinars, meditations, and wellness 

Encourage your talents to take meditation courses or award them with a bonus ticket for a spa weekend. It is also a reward for their hard work, and it will help them charge their batteries and melt the stress away.

You can also buy tickets for the whole company to attend certain webinars about stress management or any programs which help in that department. Educate your workforce regarding this topic and explain to them that they matter and that you as a company are aware of stress issues and are supportive.

It is crucial to promote mental health because not many talents are even aware of its importance.

Time off


It is natural that sometimes, your talent might ask for time off or to work from home to distance themselves a bit for their own good. It’s important to allow them to do that so that they could have a rest from the stress accumulated in their working environment or private life.

Also, it’s important to remind some talents who tend to overwork themselves to take regular breaks they have the right to because sometimes, people need a simple reminder to slow down.

Chillout space

Chillout space, silence zone, anger rooms and such have really become popular nowadays.

It takes just a bit of creativity, but it’s a great idea to have a room or a part of the room where people can simply sit down and take a little break. Silence zones or anger rooms could help with taking the edge off if your talent is feeling especially sensitive that day, or is simply angry and needs to unwind somewhere.

A walk in the park usually helps people to recollect their thoughts, so an idea of a zen garden included in your company’s yard (if you have one) might be a good solution.

Communication and organization

Overall, these two elements are the most important part of stress prevention. If the work and activities are clearly communicated between the workforce, and they are organized in time and meticulous, there isn’t much room left for stress.

People usually get anxious if the deadlines are near and the work isn’t done, or if the information is communicated poorly.

So, if you can keep these two elements in check, your company will be closer to a stress-free zone.

It’s OK Not To Be OK

When speaking of mental health, the most important element is to be aware that it exists.

To boost the awareness and encourage your talents to take care of themselves are also key factors; but your interest to help them and offering to do so is a privilege itself, and it shows compassion and empathy, benefiting your company’s image. 

Sometimes stress can melt away when you simply talk about it, so your talents will appreciate you stepping in if they ask for help or show that they need it. Company culture is also a big factor that needs to be nourished and kept in balance because although we are all different, we should be aware that our mental health varies from person to person.

The most important piece of info from this blog is that mental health matters as much as physical health.


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