Ways to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace
What is Mental Health?
Mental health concerns your emotional and social wellbeing, namely your ability to function optimally in society as an individual. It ties into the way you make your decisions, cope with the various moments of stress in life and interact with other members of society. It concerns being able to recognize the emotions you are feeling, and how you deal with said emotions.
While it is generally accepted that you should take care of your physical health, your mental health is not given the same attention by society. In our society there is a tendency for people – especially men – to ignore their mental health under the guise of “toughing it out” and “being a man.” Talking about your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them does not make you weak, nor does it make you less of a person regardless of what has been ingrained in our societal consciousness.
Even in calmer times, our mental health can have its low points, and the current times are anything but calm. We are currently in a global pandemic: the kind of event that most people would have expected to read about in a history book rather than experience. The preventive steps we take to safeguard our health, remind us that while the surface of the water may be still, we don’t know what lurks beneath.
Improving Mental Health in the Workplace
Mental health has a direct link to employee satisfaction and employee effectiveness. Put simply, unless your employees feel that you care about them as individuals rather than just tools to complete a task, they will not see your company as being worthwhile to stay with or put any extra effort into the tasks they are assigned.
Here are some suggestions for improving mental health in the workplace for Employees.
Talking about it:
There is an undeniable stigma in society when it comes to talking about our mental health. It is generally assumed that we grit and bear whatever problems come our way, laughing them off so we aren’t slowed down dealing with them.
However, the aftereffects of these problems linger and worsen the longer we keep them bottled up. Our moods worsen slowly enough that we may not notice, neither do the people around us. Our capacity to deal with problems slowly but surely starts to reach its limit. It’s not one bad day that destroys us, it’s the constant chipping over time which we ignore.
As an employee, you may be nervous about sharing details of your personal life or voicing your insecurities in an environment where you’re meant to be professional. It can be as easy as finding someone you trust in the office and having a simple chat with them about how you’re handling things currently. While you should not expect them to solve your problems, the human contact goes a long way.
Taking Regular Breaks:
The workplace can create an expectation that you should always be hard at work, nose to the grindstone and candle burning at both ends. While you are here to complete your daily tasks, there is merit in learning how to pace yourself.
The typical workday in an office likely has you sitting in a chair either working on a computer or attending to customers, standing a handful of times for meetings, your lunch break and occasional toilet breaks. While your body may feel relatively rested during this period, every task you do requires thought, and you will quickly find yourself mentally exhausted.
Breaks help our brain reset and switch away from work mode for a moment; it is highly recommended to take regular breaks after completing tasks. Five minutes of looking away from computer screen and stretching or ten minutes so you can step outside and have a breath of fresh air. The human body isn’t built to focus intensely over an entire day.
There isn’t an exact formula for breaks. Some people find it easier to take short breaks during a task, others prefer longer breaks after completing several tasks. Experiment and find what benefits you the most.
While people can be remarkably complex, we are quite simple in many ways. Everyone enjoys the occasional appreciation shown, and there is an incredible sense of validation that comes from feeling like you have truly made a difference through your actions.
In the workplace it can be very easy to view people as moving parts of a massive machine, cogs which need to turn in tandem to produce profit. However, people are not unchanging, and our effectiveness rises and falls with our mental states or validation.
Employee Appreciation simply means showing your employees and co-workers that you value their presence as people. This can be as simple as a commendation for a task well done, comforting words when it looks like they are struggling or an offer to guide them through difficult terrains.
Here are some suggestions for improving mental health in the workplace for Employers.
Businesses are in existence to make profit, and as such, there is a tendency to want your employees to be constantly available and able to work when called upon. Breaks from work are usually pre-decided and scheduled far ahead of time, but in rare and dire occasions, more spontaneous days off are needed.
While leave days are chosen and planned around easily foreseen events, some events are unpredictable to foresee. Perhaps it’s a death in the family, news of a concerning medical condition, a drastic change in living conditions or the final break in months of stress. The curve balls that life throws at you can hinder the usual productivity of an employee.
Mental Health days should be encouraged in the workplace. A day aside from the weekend when your employees are encouraged to simply just relax, recoup, and refresh themselves for future tasks. Not only does it show that you are concerned about their wellbeing, it serves to prevent the chances that they will collapse under the stress of work. This can also be achieved through scheduled and deliberate team bonding initiatives that takes your employees off work mode for a few hours while they reenergize.
Optional Social Events:
Social events are a well-known way to relax after a hard week at work. An excellent way to find out more about your co-workers and learn to relate to them as peers. At a social event, be it a company birthday, a quiz or something more casual like a small outing, employees can mingle and make connections which will make their coming days in work far easier.
However, while social events are wonderful when employees choose to attend them, they should never be made mandatory. People abhor feeling like they’re being herded and forced to commit to an obligation.
A social event made compulsory works against its intended goal of building connections and serving as a refuge from work. Additionally, while some people are extroverts who will enjoy any event suggested, others can only relax when they have their own space, and they should not be forced to attend events they don’t wish to. In cases like this, social events of this nature can occur after work, lunch breaks or weekends. It should not interrupt working hours of activities. The aim is to sell the idea to your employees by leveraging on key change agents within the teams.
We hope this non-exhaustive list of ways to improve mental health in your workplace has helped and encourage you to seek out more ways. Reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about Improving Mental Health in the Workplace and we will be glad to offer bespoke solutions.
(Picture by Medsile – Iwaria.com)