Mental Health in the Workplace: Why Is It So Important?

mental health in the workplace

Mental health isn’t tied to mental illness alone. You can have mental health challenges without dealing with a mental disorder. With good mental health, a person can cope with everyday stressors and work productively.

Many companies used to underestimate the significance of supporting mental health in the workplace. Fortunately, more and more of them now recognize the importance of addressing mental health issues to ensure optimal employee performance.

Programs for the promotion of employee mental health in the workplace are now a necessity instead of something that’s simply “nice to have.”

Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health is crucial because employees with sound mental health are able to accomplish their tasks well. When positive mental health is prioritized, employees cope with challenges better both at work and at home.

If companies take the time to focus on mental health, staff members are able to manage responsibilities and role assignments with ease. Employees become more resilient, know how to handle stress properly, and deliver better performance.

Having good mental health can help you identify, communicate, and regulate your emotions. This would allow you to empathize with other people regardless of their circumstances. It may also have a positive impact on your cognitive and social skills.

Risk Factors That Can Harm Mental Health in the Workplace

To nip any problem in the bud, it’s a must to find out what’s causing it. The following can negatively affect employee mental health in the long run:

Inadequate Policies for Health and Safety

Health and safety guidelines in the workplace are meant to protect the well-being of employees, employers, and customers alike. Such policies may include regular one-on-one consultations with staff members regarding their mental health concerns. In general, they’re a commitment to ensure that employees are out of harm’s way in the workplace at all times.

Policies typically address issues on the use of hazardous materials and poorly maintained machinery. Common examples are overcrowded workspaces and unsanitary, poorly lit, or poorly ventilated rooms.

Still, regardless of the industry, a company can’t function with equipment alone. That’s why policies specifically for mental health wellness have to be created, too.

Poor Communication and Management Practices

A good employer-employee relationship is marked by engaging communication and management practices. If these are deficient in any way, it can strain the relationship over time. This may lead to poor mental health issues among employees and increase unnecessary stress in the workplace.

Lack of Support for Employees

Staff members may feel overwhelmed and uninterested in work if employers fail to remove work-related obstructions. Management should provide employees with proper orientation and training whenever needed. They have to demonstrate exactly how each task should be accomplished so that everyone’s on the same page. Afterward, they should be available to accommodate questions. These practices would allow for the efficient completion of projects.

Performance Pressure

Most employees are stressed out because they either pressure themselves or are pressured by their superiors to always give their best. Some want to exceed their personal expectations with the hope that they’ll eventually be recognized for it.

As a result, they may feel the need to put in extra hours even if they’re already fatigued or overworked. This might exacerbate their stress and trigger emotional exhaustion.

Job Insecurity

In 2020, the major stressor among employees was losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic as this meant that they might not have enough financial resources to pay the bills. Any threat to employment would naturally make someone worry about being able to provide for the basic needs of their family.

Workplace Mental Health Issues

When you’re healthy mentally and emotionally, you can perform your job without a hitch. You’re more flexible and adaptable, so you’re capable of making meaningful contributions in your company and handling work-related challenges no matter the complexity. The result would be a promising career and personal life.

Meanwhile, when you have poor mental health at work, there can be consequences such as:

Lack of Motivation and Focus

When you have mental health issues, your mind tends to wander and you may dwell too much on them. You could then become unmotivated and lose focus at work. You might also have a hard time regulating your thoughts and emotions.

Low Productivity

With a healthy mental state, you can achieve high-level job performance. In contrast, when you’re struggling mentally, you may not be able to provide creative and significant contributions in various projects. 

You could have difficulty persevering at work even if you like what you’re doing. Poor mental health can greatly affect overall productivity and efficiency.

Negative Effects on Daily Activities

Mental health problems may impair your ability to do daily work. For instance, they can have negative impacts on your cognitive performance and working memory. You might also experience an increase in social anxiety, leaving you mentally and emotionally drained. This is far from ideal when your job entails plenty of team work or interactions with colleagues and clients.

Communication Issues

Someone with poor mental health could find it difficult to effectively communicate with others. This would likely lead to misunderstandings between you and them. You may even sound aggressive and rude without meaning to, and your coworkers might think that you don’t listen to them well.

Poor Decision-Making Skills

Your decision-making skills could deteriorate if your mental health is suffering. You may frequently have unhealthy thoughts and lack self-control. Poor decision-making skills can lead you to miss out on important work meetings, be late for appointments often, or be unable to attend to commitments and follow company policies.

Support and Management Strategies for Workplace Mental Health

Employers should strive to put the mental health of their employees first. Proactive options for staff members need to be created to help them maintain mental wellness.

Promoting mental health in the workplace should be a collaborative effort between employers and employees. After all, both would greatly benefit from a mentally healthy work environment. Here are several ways to accomplish that goal:

For Employers

Employers should take some steps to provide mental health resources to employees. They also have to encourage those with mental health conditions to take advantage of the clinical services that the company has made available to them.

Aside from accessible treatment or consultation options, support in the workplace itself for such conditions is just as important. If the office or factory is conducive to excellent mental health, employees can develop their coping skills, minimize stress, and increase their resilience.

Happy and productive employees have good mental wellness. Here are a few strategies that employers can use to promote awareness of mental health issues in the workplace:

Employee Assistance Program

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based initiative designed to assist employees with work-related and/or personal problems. Those issues have to be resolved as they may affect one’s job performance and overall well-being.

EAPs should be offered to all employees for free. The program could help employees address their concerns regarding the following:

  • Relationship issues
  • Traumatic experiences such as workplace violence or bullying
  • Legal problems
  • Wellness concerns
  • Other challenges that employees are facing

It’d be best for the EAP to be accessed through phone calls, video calls, email, or in-person sessions. This way, employees can get the assistance they require anytime, anywhere.

Relaxation Rooms

Relaxation rooms are spaces dedicated to quiet time. Staff members can use them for activities they can do during their breaks to relieve stress and unwind.

Employers should set good examples for employees by using the rooms to release tension and loosen up. In doing so, they can encourage everyone in the company to use the spaces on a regular basis.

Availability of Mental Health Assessment Tools

Assessment tools are questionnaires that can be utilized to evaluate someone’s mental health status. They can’t provide an accurate diagnosis of a person’s mental health condition. However, they can help individuals discover resources such as counseling or therapy that would allow them to cope with mental health issues.

Some of these assessment tools are:

  • Mental health meter quizzes
  • Checklists for mood assessment
  • Work-life balance tests
  • Questionnaires regarding one’s current situation

Clinical Screenings for Depression

Employers have to offer their employees free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression. These are carried out by mental health professionals.

If staff members are left on their own, they may not seek professional help at all. This could be because they can’t afford to or they’re wary of the stigma around mental health care. Employers who go the extra mile of helping them out can expect higher work outputs from their employees.

Coaching or Counseling Service

Management can look for coaching or counseling services that would help employees handle the many challenges they encounter from day to day. These also aim to strengthen their mental fitness. Similar to clinical screenings, the services can either be subsidized or completely free as part of staff members’ benefits packages.

Health Insurance

Employees would appreciate health insurance plans that come with mental health care benefits. They can use those to cover prescription medications as well as mental health counseling services or therapy.

For Employees

It would be highly advantageous for staff members to participate in team-building activities that involve stress management education and mental health programs. Here are other strategies that employees can try for the sake of their mental health in the workplace:

Join Employer-Sponsored Programs

Employees should take advantage of programs and conferences offered by their employers as much as possible. They can use those opportunities to learn new skills and receive the extra support they need.

Share Experiences With Others

Engage in friendly conversations with your colleagues. Talk about your experiences if you’re someone with a particular mental health condition. This may reduce mental health stigma in the workplace.

During conversations with colleagues, think of them as members of your peer support group. However, don’t overshare personal details. Those are best reserved for your mental health care provider who can use that information for treatment purposes.

Practice Coping Skills

Daily work stress is unavoidable. So you won’t crumble under the weight of it, work on having a more positive mindset. Improve your self-image and cultivate healthy relationships.

Some coping tools you can turn to are:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Healthy communication
  • Focusing on one task at a time
  • Positive language or self-talk

Practice Self-Care

After your lunch breaks or during your short coffee breaks, do some self-care activities that’ll only take you several minutes to accomplish, such as:

  • Meditating
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Listening to inspirational podcasts
  • Going outside and enjoying the outdoors

Properly taking care of yourself can contribute to your mental wellness. Therefore, see to it that you eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

Cultivate Relationships

To prevent social isolation and loneliness at work, you have to establish and maintain relationships with your colleagues and superiors.

For Health Care Providers

Individuals that can provide professional health care services to companies include clinical psychologists, social workers, and physical or occupational therapists. They’re the best sources of comprehensive and holistic care.

Mental health experts should look for signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety among employees. They have to recommend the appropriate tests, treatments, and services if deemed necessary.

For Public Health Researchers

Public health researchers can develop how-to guides that aim to design, implement, and evaluate health care programs in companies. Those programs should address not only physical health but also mental health and stress concerns.

Researchers may provide employers with a mental health scorecard that’ll let them assess their employees and workplace environment. In doing so, they’ll be able to identify areas or key points that need intervention.

Employers could be encouraged to pursue mental health initiatives in the workplace if they receive recognition for it. Researchers can choose to give out awards to employers who show evidence-based improvements in employee performance through their mental health programs.

For Community Leaders and Business Owners

Leaders in the community and business owners should support community-based programs that may reduce the risk of employees experiencing more stress and mental health problems. The goals of those programs could be to provide:

  • Access to affordable housing
  • Access to facilities promoting physical activity
  • Tools that encourage financial literacy
  • Ways to have a safe and tobacco-free or drug-free community

For Federal and State Governments

The government as a whole should supply resources for companies and organizations that deliver mental health and stress management education. For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) created a toolkit that provides information on employment programs for individuals with mental illnesses.

The government also has to gather data on employees’ well-being. They need to conduct research on ongoing public health innovations to determine how else they can help the working sector when it comes to mental health.

Why Do Companies Worry About Mental Health and Mental Illness?

When many employees of a company have poor mental health and are emotionally stressed, this can cause problems in the workplace. Issues that may arise are:

  • Disconnected employees
  • Poor communication
  • High turnover
  • Safety liabilities
  • Poor job performance
  • Low productivity rate
  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Decreased profitability

Mental health disorders are considered the most burdensome health issues in the U.S. Roughly 1 out of 5 American adults were reported to be diagnosed with a mental illness in 2016. In connection to that, around 63% of Americans are part of the workforce. Thus, it’s only right for companies to look after their mental and physical well-being. 

Numerous individuals with mental illnesses also have physical health concerns. They may have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, and disorders affecting the muscles, bones, and joints. Treating someone with both mental and physical health conditions can be costly.

In 2019, many employers saw the need to address the stigma surrounding mental health. They also recognized the emergence of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Companies have to create workplace wellness programs to help and support employee mental health. When companies address their employees’ mental health issues, this can greatly reduce their health care costs.

Redefining Mental Health in the Workplace

Wellness in the workplace should be among every company’s main priorities as it affects an asset no organization can ever go without: employees. Businesses have to recognize and become aware of the different mental health conditions their staff members may have. This is the first step in looking after their mental health at work.

Companies with the best mental health benefits strive to destigmatize mental health as well. This is because fear and shame may get in the way of creating an accepting and welcoming work environment. In addition, they focus on finding solutions that help employees grow personally and professionally.

Due to the pandemic, there’s been an increase in demand for health care services and support in the workplace. As a result, more critical and comprehensive mental health care programs have been set up by various businesses.

Counseling Now offers mental health care programs for employees that companies can take advantage of. Our online services are highly convenient for both employers and employees.

If you’re an employer looking for a trusted counseling services center, you’ve come to the right place. Counseling Now and its team of professional counselors and therapists can provide your employees with the right mental health care options.

We’re here to make sure that your employees will always be in top shape physically and mentally. Book an appointment now to find out what Counseling Now can do for you and your company.

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