Mental health must be a priority at our workplaces

Mental health

Prioritising your mental health is essential to your overall well-being. Your body, mind, and spirit rely on your mental health. If you can't take care of yourself, it affects your relationships and physical health. Most people spend about one-third of their lifetime at work. It is of the utmost importance that the working hours represent a good experience for each individual because the opposite can cause permanent damage to their mental health. When we talk about mental health in the workplace, we’re talking about creating a workplace environment within your organisation that supports the mental well-being of your employees.

Why mental well-being at workplaces

The days of not talking about mental health are gone and supporting mental health in the workplace is now a necessity. Mental health, along with physical health and social well-being, is an essential component of overall health. It’s also important to point out that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. You can have poor mental health without having an illness and likewise, you can have good mental health with a mental illness.

Mental health problems have an impact on business directly through increased absenteeism, accidents and employee turnover, as well as decreased productivity and performance, hence it’s key to have discussions concerning mental health issues. Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. A shift in attitudes by both employees and employers about mental disorders is needed to address the importance of mental health in the workplace.

What is mental health and wellbeing?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and awareness of the full range of employee mental health experiences is the first step to supporting good mental health in the workplace.

Ways of improving mental health and wellbeing

Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. Many organisations currently fall short when it comes to supporting employee mental health and wellbeing. There are, however, several ways to do so that not only help to create a mentally healthy environment but also a workplace that employees want to fully participate in. Here are some simple things that organisations can do to create a mentally healthy workplace:

Promoting  and supporting wellbeing issues at work

There is no doubt that improving employee wellbeing is beneficial to any organisation and wellbeing should be considered part of an employer’s ethical responsibility particularly when we consider how prevalent mental health issues are.  . A company that prioritises health and wellbeing in the workplace will not only reduce absences, but also attract and retain talent, improve productivity and boost morale. There are small steps that organisations can take to ensure wellbeing is a priority in their employees’ day to day working lives and one of it is simply Promoting  and supporting wellbeing issues at work. Improving employee wellbeing must be a priority, and employers should be considerate about how their wellbeing strategy builds on and aligns to their health and safety policy.

Create an open, inclusive caring  culture

As with any facet of company culture, creating and encouraging a sense of belonging in your workplace begins at the leadership level.

Employees need to believe that their organisation provides a positive and inclusive working environment and trust that they will be provided with the support they need. Otherwise, it may be difficult to  break down stigma  around mental  health  at  workplaces.

This requires employers to create a culture that supports inclusivity, then champion that culture daily on the same note it should be made clear  that any mental health and wellbeing issue employees wish to discuss will always be treated with confidentiality, respect and understanding, never intolerance.

Create a healthy work environment

The work environment is known to have a significant impact on employee mental wellness, productivity, job turnover and overall profits. Leaders can influence a healthy workplace environment by having an open-door policy, keeping employees informed of developments, departmental changes, business goals, and policies. These provide direction, build trust, and reduce employee stress. There are also top-down policy changes that may benefit your workforce, including flex time so employees can get exercise and attend to personal needs while also completing a full day of work, and work-from-home options, whether it’s a full move to a home office or one or two days per week.

Run mental health and wellbeing initiatives and regular meetings

Regular meetings should not be solely about work. Your regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports, and even your performance reviews, can be opportunities to have a holistic conversation with employees. Rather than simply ensuring that work is getting done, you can use these meetings to gauge an employee’s overall wellbeing. Taking the time to ask an employee how their day is going and having a quick chat before you delve into agenda items can make the world of difference to how they are feeling and creates an opportunity for them to raise any issues or concerns. Creating proactive options that help people improve and maintain their mental health day-to-day is key to helping employees flourish as far as mental health and wellbeing initiatives is concerned must also be prioritised.

Workplace wellbeing programmes

The wellbeing of your workers is what makes or breaks the business’s long-term success. Deflated, overworked staff deliver low quality work and lack a commitment to your business, hence having workplace programs can be the only panacea. Workplace wellbeing programmes are designed to support and encourage a holistic approach to employee wellbeing by creating an organisational culture of health. No matter what size or type of workplace you manage, implementing a health and wellbeing programme leads to significant improvements. You will  increase productivity, improve staff retention, and build a reputation as being a desirable place to work.

Host mental health support trainings

Upskilling, training and development can support the creation of a mentally healthy workplace by helping to engage employees, develop their career, boost their confidence and improve their morale. In order to achieve a more open culture, it’s always best, where possible, to introduce the idea of mental health support or training right from the employee induction stage. Several training options are available. Mental health training can give you a range of skills to help should an employee begin to experience issues, by equipping you with the tools needed to recognise when someone may need more support.

Work on the work-life balance

When we think of mental health, we usually think about conditions like anxiety and depression, but there is more to being mentally healthy than not suffering from a specific condition. Stress and overworking can all lead to mental health challenges and can resultantly lead to serious performance issues. This is why you should focus on establishing a healthy work-life balance for all of your employees

We all have mental health just as we have physical health - it moves up and down along a spectrum from good to poor. And considering how much time we spend at work, it’s not surprising that workplace environments and culture affect our wellbeing. Smart employers know that organizations perform better when staff are healthy, motivated and focused.

  • Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert 

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