Women In Business

Mental health in the workplace


Navigating the workplace can be difficult and emotional for some. Whether it’s the mounting responsibilities or the potential for conflict with coworkers, the workplace can be full of emotional hazards. Nobody wants to wake up in the morning and dread going to work. Conversely managers don’t want to find out that their employees are struggling to balance their responsibilities. A bigger emphasis should be placed on making mental health a priority in the workplace. Reducing stress and maintaining open lines of communication can encourage work-life balance and a healthier mental state for employees.

Unfortunately, many managers find it difficult to encourage emotional honesty from their employees. There is a fear of ‘crossing the line’ or probing too deeply into personal affairs. But by providing a safe atmosphere and open communication channels for employees, managers could quickly see an uptick in both positivity and productivity.

The dangers of stress

Unfortunately, stress is one of the inescapable realities of employment. And while a certain amount of stress can work as motivation for some, others can have a hard time coping. An article at Alere outlined the startling statistics related to workplace stress, stating that “40% of workers call their job very or extremely stressful” and “one in four workers report they are ‘often or very often burned out or stressed by their work’”. In a survey conducted in 2013 by consulting company Towers Watson, “78% of companies identified stress as a top-risk issue for their workforce, ranking higher than obesity and tobacco use.”

Employee work ethic and success is important to the health of any business, but not at the cost of mental burnout. This problem has deep roots in the business world. Additional factors can complicate the situation, particularly if an employee is having problems with relationships at home, struggling with addiction or recovery, or worrying about money. All of these things can lead to chronic stress, and subsequently lead to depression and potential substance abuse problems.

A supportive workplace

To avoid a toxic work environment, do your part to create an open and supportive workplace. Many people look at their jobs as a place of responsibility, as well as a place that they can be social. If you can create a workplace in which employees feel valued and confident, you may be rewarded with benefits like lower staff turnover, higher productivity, and a great reputation. Work to create a program that recognizes and rewards employees for their hard work and talent. This will help boost morale and assure employees that their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

A happy workplace can help combat a buildup of chronic stress and subsequent depression. Limeade  reports that depression costs American companies alone $44 billion in lost productivity every year. Now more than ever, workplaces should be adding elements of fun and relaxation into the office routine. Some companies have set up lounge areas with activities and games for employees to blow off steam. Those same companies are reaping the benefits of both cathartic stress release and coworker social interaction. Taking a break to laugh with colleagues “relieves stress by forcing a cognitive shift in how stressors are viewed and creates a positive emotional response”.

Lastly, make sure employees are aware of their vacation time and encourage them to use it. It’s common for employees to feel like they’re ‘letting the team down’ if they take a day off. But not taking time to rest could lead to exhaustion and poor quality of work. Emphasize the need for each employee to take the vacation time that they’re owed. That feeling of flexibility will allow employees to not feel guilty about taking time off.

Employee wellbeing

Stressful or toxic work environments have the potential to exacerbate mental health issues. And if those issues go without support, they can become a life-altering condition. Take the lead in creating and encouraging a work environment that makes mental health a priority. When employees feel like they have support and recognition, it goes a long way to reduce stress and promote positive mental health.

Are you making mental health a priority in the workplace? Let us know how in the comments.

About Shelby Hendrix

Shelby Hendrix is a writer from the Northern Midwest with close personal ties to the addiction world. She focuses on the addiction landscape to reach out to those fighting alcoholism and compel them to seek an informed, healthy recovery. She is a regular contributor to the Soberlink blog.

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