October is Mental Health Awareness month. Mental Health Day is celebrated on the 10th. Ask around, and you’d be surprised business leaders and HR managers are unaware of it. Sadly, even though it’s an annual event, it’s often neglected.
We must break the silence and start openly and honestly discussing mental health in the workplace. Only then can we begin to destigmatize mental illness and help those struggling get the needed help.
But first, let’s discuss what mental health is.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health affects three aspects of our humanity – emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental Health is crucial in every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. It has an impact on how we think, feel, and act. It also affects our decision-making, interpersonal interactions, and stress management.
In addition, according to WHO, “Mental health conditions include mental, neurological, and substance use disorders, suicide risk, and associated psychosocial, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities.”
How is Mental Health Linked to the Workplace?
Work is inextricably linked to mental health. Our work affects our mental health, and our mental health affects our work. It can be challenging to stay focused and motivated at work when we struggle with mental health.
We may struggle to complete tasks, meet deadlines, or interact with coworkers. If unsatisfied with our jobs, we may experience increased stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions or even trigger new ones.
To maintain our mental health, we must strike a healthy balance between work, family, hobbies, and ourselves. This could include setting boundaries at work, taking regular breaks, or seeking professional help if we have difficulty coping. We can ensure that we can give our best at work and have a more fulfilling career by caring for our mental health.
However, the effort to promote mental health wellness in the workplace must begin from the upper levels of management. If the leadership team doesn’t put in any effort, it will be perceived as just lip service. The good news is that efforts are being made to improve employees’ mental health because, since 2019, there has been a significant rise in the demand for action in terms of mental health in the workplace.
Reasons There Is A Rise In The Demand For Action In Terms Of Mental Health In The Workplace
The past two years have been a roller coaster ride for the workforce. The pandemic created a toll on the mental health of the workforce, with many people struggling to cope with the stress and anxiety of the situation.
High Attrition Rate – Work takes up a huge chunk of our lives – most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else. So it’s no surprise that workplace factors like overwhelming and unsustainable work can negatively affect our mental health.
This gives credence to the idea that almost everyone regularly experiences mental health issues. It’s time to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues and acknowledge that they impact everyone.
To actively support mental health, DEI leaders must make sure that the workplace always fosters inclusivity. Other issues that can affect marginalized populations’ mental health and sense of safety at work include misrepresentation, microaggressions, unconscious bias, and other stressors that are difficult to notice.
However, the truth of the matter is that most of the common mental health programs are considered to be band-aid solutions. Providing a healthier environment is a deeper issue in the workplace. That’s why managers need to create solid, actionable plans that show sincerity in this matter.
For example, Mind Share Partners’ Key Frameworks for Success: Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces and Programs toolkit can be found here.
The downloadable document has three sections that cover:
The Ecosystem of a Mentally Healthy Workplace
Key Success Factors for Mental Health Programs
Case Study: Mental Health Days
How Managers Can Provide Help That Works
Employees spend most of their waking hours at work, so it only makes sense to train leaders on how to handle emotional and mental issues in employees. Employees sometimes open up to leaders, but leaders don’t know how to handle life crises. Read on to learn some times when you’re faced with the same situation.
1. Self-Care is Critical. As a manager, you have the opportunity to set the tone for your team. You must model good behavior if your team is healthy and effective. That means taking breaks, setting boundaries, and taking care of yourself.
When you’re well-rested and taking care of yourself, your team will be more likely to do the same. And when everyone takes care of themselves, the whole team will be more productive and effective. So don’t just talk about supporting mental health – model it yourself and set an example for your team.
2. Always Check In With Your Team. With so many people working remotely, it can be harder to spot when someone is struggling. Simply asking, “How are you?” isn’t enough – you need to dig deeper and ask about specific support that may be necessary. It’s also important to encourage questions and concerns and let your team members know you’re there for them. Overbearing behavior can signal a lack of trust or a desire to micromanage, so it’s essential to strike the right balance.
Remember, you won’t always know what to say or do when someone is struggling. The most important thing is to care and listen to your team members. If they don’t reveal much, that’s okay. Knowing they can count on you to listen through these tough times is key.
3. Learn To Spot Early Signs of Stress and Mental Health. Managers and supervisors are in an excellent position to detect signs of stress and mental illness in their employees. They can learn to recognize early warning signs and take action to prevent the situation from worsening with proper training. They can help their team members stay healthy and perform well by being proactive.
Furthermore, they can use their influence to encourage employees to seek assistance when necessary. Employees who feel supported by their managers are more likely to seek help when needed and to discuss their mental health openly. As a result, managers play an important role in promoting mental health at work. Read more here on managing employees having personal crises.
Keeping silent about our mental health only perpetuates the stigma. If we can have more open and honest conversations about our mental health in the workplace, we can normalize these discussions and make it easier for people to get the help they need.
Finally, check company policies to see if they are conducive to a healthy work environment; offloading employees is one way to ensure that they have enough headspace; and delegating tasks to technology, such as Payruler, can go a long way in protecting employees from work anxiety and burnout.
Supporting and advocating for mental health requires a systematic change – it can be difficult, but it is a win-win situation for employees and the company.