The Relationship Between Mental Health the Workplace — The Impact of Poor Mental Wellbeing and How Employers can Help

The Relationship Between Mental Health the Workplace — The Impact of Poor Mental Wellbeing and How Employers can Help

Workers’ daily stress reached a record high in 2020, according to the Global Workplace 2021 Report, which was conducted by Gallup in 116 countries. With 43% of respondents in over 100 countries claiming to have experienced stress, up from 38% in 2019, there’s no question that the matter is quite prevalent. From understanding the relationship between mental health and the workplace to what can be done to cultivate a positive environment that focuses on mental wellbeing, here’s what you should know.  

  • Mental health and the workspace

When exploring the relationship between mental health and work, research from Mental Health America found that 90% of employees report that their workplace stress affects their mental health, and 60% don’t even receive enough support from their supervisors to manage that stress. In terms of specific work-induced mental health issues, post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, presents just one example — for instance, delayed PTSD is common among those who work in industries like the military or as a first responder. As such, work-related cases of PTSD can even lead to employees taking legal action in order to receive the compensation and justice they deserve in instances where an employer is found to be negligent or play a role in causing or exacerbating PTSD. 

In regards to how mental health can directly affect someone in the workplace, the effects can be rather widespread in nature. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks 20% of the time, and even reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time. To further elaborate on the effects that mental health issues can have on one’s work, the CDC notes that poor mental health can negatively impact job performance/productivity, engagement with one’s work, communication with coworkers, physical capability, and daily functioning. 

  • The dire need for genuine changes 

When it comes to the relation between mental health and the workplace, the statistics are alarming, and clearly draw attention to the need for a solution. According to an article for the Harvard Business Review, more employees are leaving their jobs for mental health related reasons, including those that are caused by workplace factors (such as overwhelming or unsustainable work). However, when it comes to the initiatives that many employers have put in place — such as mental health days or counseling apps, Harvard notes that these “aren’t enough,” as cultural change must take place and employers “must connect what they say to what they actually do.” 

  • Successfully promoting workplace wellness 

For employers striving to make a difference, cultivating a workspace where mental health is prioritized is imperative for employee health and mental wellbeing, and is something that can be done in various different ways. In addition to reexamining health insurance policies to focus on mental health, the American Psychological Association (APA) notes that training managers to promote health and wellbeing can make a difference for employees. The APA states that training supervisors on various aspects — such as how to support employees in addition to recognizing the signs of stress and other mental health issues — can aid in reducing absenteeism and turnover. The Association further goes on to explain that other methods, such as making flexible working styles available (aka hybrid or remote) can further help in promoting mental health by increasing motivation and performance. Putting a focus on employee feedback can further work to ensure that employers are actively listening to what employees need. 

Due to the effect that mental health can have on an individual at work as well as how the workplace can contribute to poor mental health, there’s no question that prioritizing a healthy mental wellbeing among employees is imperative — both for individual health and the workplace. Through initiatives such as training and even opening the door to options like remote work styles, employers can work on creating a healthy workspace.

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