Mental health – it’s a subject we don’t hear much about, at least not in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. In fact, the lack of transparency and openness on mental health issues can result in employees suffering in silence, to the detriment of both their own wellbeing and business performance.
What is Mental Health?
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as, “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.”
We tend to think of mental health in terms of illness, rather than wellness. Often, we envision psychotic behaviour or personality disorders when discussing mental health. But in truth, it is better described as a continuum that every individual sits on. Over time, depending on how life is going for us, we move up and down this sliding scale.
In a culture where mental health is discussed in hushed tones, overcoming the taboo is important. Mental illness can affect anyone, whether you are a male or female, young or old, without discrimination. And just like any physical condition, it doesn’t simply appear out of nowhere.
AIA Vitality examined the mental wellbeing of employees in Sri Lankan businesses, as part of its Healthiest Workplace Survey. Read on to find out what the results revealed.
The Effects of Employee’s poor mental health on workplace performance
The symptoms of mental illness can be hard to detect. So it may surprise you that it is prevalent in your workforce. According to the Healthiest Workplace Survey 2019:
- 15% of employees reported moderate or severe mental health symptoms
- 56.1% of employees are affected by 1 or more work-related stress factors
- 30.9% of employees suffer due to financial concerns.
For further insight into these findings, access the full report here https://bit.ly/2SGkyjj
The effect of poor mental wellbeing has also been linked to sub-optimal business performance:
- Increased sick leave due to stress, burnout and associated physical ailments (e.g. high blood pressure, sleeping disorders…etc.)
2. Work performance
- Loss in productivity and output
- Increase in error rates and accidents
- Inability to properly plan and organise
- Poor decision-making
3.Employee attitude and behaviour
- Poor labour retention rates
- Lack of engagement, motivation and commitment
- Higher levels of burnout
- Working longer but experiencing diminishing returns
4.Relationships at work
- Increases in conflict and tension within teams
- Heightened emotions
- Poor employee-client relationships
What Affects Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace?
While an employee’s mental health may be the result of personal reasons, such as poor lifestyle behaviour or individual concerns, workplace stress can also affect employee mental wellbeing.
As identified in AIA’s Healthiest Workplace Survey 2019, stress (in the work environment) is caused by 7 factors:
1.Control – the less control an employee has over their work circumstances, the more stress they experience.
2.Role – role ambiguity, a lack of specificity on duties and responsibilities, adds to confusion and self-doubt.
3.Managerial support – a lack of support from leadership teams can alienate staff.
4.Peer support – similarly, a lack of peer support leads to feelings of isolation.
5.Change – not receiving adequate communication and support during periods of change, and a lack of involvement in the process, adds stress.
6.Relationships – poor relationships between all stakeholders can lead to tension and give rise to incidents of bullying.
7.Demands – high workloads and tight deadlines result in overwork and burnout.
The stress a workplace can place on any individual, leads to symptoms of anxiety and depression, over time. As such, it is imperative that leadership teams provide a safe and supportive work environment for their staff.
Recommendations for safeguarding and improving mental health in the workplace
Based on the above-mentioned causes, let’s look at actions that can be taken to safeguard employees from unnecessary stress:
- Include employees in the decision-making process, especially if it involves operational and environmental changes. Take and value their input, so they are actively involved and feel more in control.
- Be specific about roles and responsibilities. Also be transparent about development and career progression opportunities. This helps avoid confusion, as to their future in the organization.
- Build a culture of support whereby employees can rely on both management and their peers for help and guidance. Clear communication is a big part of this.
- Create opportunities that allow for strong interpersonal relationships and take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying. Ingrain respect in all aspects of interaction.
- Be mindful of workloads and timelines. Ensuring that tasks are distributed fairly and deadlines are achievable.
- In addition, companies can look at implementing specific, mental wellbeing initiatives:
- Help remove the stigma of mental health problems by opening up avenues of discussion. In the same regard, develop communication channels, so employees do not feel embarrassed to ask for help.
- Launch education programmes to teach staff how to look after their mental wellbeing.
- Offer access to counsellors and psychologists.
- Develop processes to support employees coming back to work, after absences due to mental illness.
Remember, the first step is to recognise the legitimate need for good mental health practices. As owners, managers and leaders, it is your responsibility to look after the wellbeing of your staff, by creating a safe and healthy work environment for them. Genuine efforts to improve their mental wellbeing will make a big difference in how they perform ultimately allowing your business or organization to grow and flourish.