Mental health in the workplace
With increasingly busy and demanding work environments, addressing and prioritising mental health in the workplace is now more vital than ever. This helps us manage stress, make better decisions, boost productivity, and improve our job satisfaction.
Mental health is often neglected compared to physical health, and this can lead to significant reductions across many areas of job performance. It’s important that we practice mental health exercises and talk to others about what’s going on, how we’re feeling, and what we’d like to change.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into mental health in the workplace, look at why it’s so important, and provide some tips on how to manage your mental health and well-being.
What is mental health in the workplace?
Mental health in the workplace refers to the health of our mental state while managing our responsibilities, completing our tasks, and fulfilling our job requirements. High demands, stress, insufficient resources, and poor management can all negatively impact workplace mental health. Naturally, different workplaces contain different demands and sources of stress, so no two environments are the same, and neither are their mental health stressors.
If it’s not addressed, low workplace mental health can lead to significant complications down the road. One common response to stressful work conditions, resulting in low workplace mental health, is burnout. Burnout refers to intense exhaustion as a result of overwhelming responsibilities and stress, especially when left unchecked for long periods of time. This exhaustion is accompanied by feelings of cynicism or negativity towards the workplace and lower productivity or efficacy.
Employees are also at a much higher risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression when workplace mental health is neglected.
Research indicates that good mental health in the workplace is strongly linked to productivity and job satisfaction. Employees in a workplace that provides them with the right help and tools to improve and maintain their mental health are nearly always healthier, happier, and more fulfilled.
Why is mental health in the workplace important?
For the majority of adults, work is where we spend the vast majority of our time. This means workplace mental health can often be one of the largest contributors to our overall well-being.
The feelings you experience at work, whether you’re overburdened, under-challenged, or perhaps even neglected, can all significantly impact your mental health. Under these conditions, you’re more likely to take job-related stress home with you and experience a negative impact on other areas of your life.
Some examples of the consequences of low workplace mental health are:
- Lower work performance
- Lower motivation
- Feeling distant or disconnected
- Social issues, such as poorer communication
- Taking stress home with you
- Emotional issues, such as less emotional availability for relationships
Conversely, having the right conditions at work to mitigate stress can protect you against these issues. Importantly, even if your own organisation doesn’t prioritise employee mental health, there are still personal changes you can make and plenty of mental health tools you can access to help cope with job stressors.
Managing your mental health in the workplace
It’s perfectly normal to occasionally experience stress, anxiety, and low moods in the workplace. In fact, research shows anywhere between 10-51% of workers have experienced intense exhaustion, low mood, and low job performance due to workplace conditions. However, with the right help, we have the power to change and improve our workplace mental health.
Everyone is different, meaning your responses to workplace stressors might be very different from someone else’s. Nevertheless, clinical research has provided some great tips that many people will find useful.
Here are a few things you can try as a starting point to improve and maintain your workplace mental health:
1. Speak out
Speak to your health professional, who can advise on your available support options and refer you to a trained mental health professional if necessary.
Also turn to your social support network, which might include a partner, friend, or family member. Discussing workplace mental health issues with a colleague or group of colleagues can also be highly beneficial.
2. Prioritise yourself
If you’re overloaded, working long hours, and taking your stress home with you, you may need to take steps to prioritise yourself. It may not always seem so, but your physical, mental, and emotional health aren’t worthy sacrifices for any job. There might be pressures from your workload or from the company culture, such as the expectation to work through lunch but don’t let that deter you from setting reasonable boundaries. Take the breaks you need and don’t take your work home with you.
Research shows that a 10-minute break from the computer every hour is beneficial to both our physical and mental well-being. Try to manage your workload by rotating between a variety of tasks around the hour rather than sticking to a single task for hours on end.
3. Change your workplace environment
Research shows that, often, chronic job stressors can be reduced when the workplace better reflects its employees. This means that, in some instances, you need to advocate for change in your workplace to mitigate sources of stress. This can look vastly different depending on where you work, but making your case known to those in charge is a start. It may feel daunting to push for change on your own, but consider that your colleagues might be experiencing the same detrimental impacts on their workplace mental health.
4. Practice cognitive-behavioural therapy skills
Cognitive-behavioural therapy, or CBT, teaches you many skills to cope with workplace stressors and can be very effective at boosting your mental health. Such skills involve:
- Cognitive restructuring or reframing: learn to identify your negative thought patterns and reframe your thoughts to be more positive and productive
- Deep breathing exercises
- Mindfulness and meditation exercises
- Journaling and thought records
Various mental health difficulties can result from low workplace mental health, ranging from low productivity to increased risk of anxiety and depression. If you experience regular job stressors and your workplace doesn’t prioritise your mental health, some options to help you manage stress are seeking professional help, using your social support network, and practising CBT exercises. Workplace mental health is vital, so make sure to prioritise yourself and get the support you need. This blog post provides you with more tips on improving mental health in the workplace.