In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, we are looking at how mental health influences the workplace and the actions everyone can take to cope with this common issue.
Mental Health America (MHA) released a report last month, analyzing a survey composed of 11,300 US responses from employees across 17 industries. It revealed that 78% of respondents agreed their workplace stress affected their mental health. Not only does workplace stress impact employees’ mental health, but it also takes a toll on business. The CDC stated that poor mental health and stress can negatively affect work performance, productivity, engagement, communication, and other crucial components. Fortunately, there are ways for everyone to manage stress in the workplace. After all, if people are a company’s most valuable asset, shouldn’t their mental health be a priority too?
Here are ways both employees and employers can prioritize mental health in the workplace according to the CDC:
As an employee, taking care of yourself physically is the first step. The CDC recommends you should, at a minimum, maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get at least 7 hours of sleep to contribute toward mental wellness. The following are additional tips for prioritizing mental health in the workplace.
- Encourage stress management education
- Take part in activities
- Share personal experiences with others to help reduce the stigma (when appropriate)
- Be open-minded, empathetic, and encouraging
- Promote stress management
- Relax, do yoga, meditate, and practice mindfulness
- Nurture face-to-face social connections
- Reflect on positive experiences
- Express happiness and gratitude
- Set and work toward personal wellness and work-related goals
- Ask for help when needed
Stress is commonly caused by, and may also be to the detriment of, the workplace. Reaching mental wellness takes support from the employer too. According to MHA, “47% [of employees] know what mental health services they can use when struggling with a mental health concern, but only 38% would be comfortable using their company’s services for a mental health concern.” Part of the issue stems from employees not knowing how they can get help–if they are even comfortable doing so. Employers must develop an optimal environment for their employees to voice all concerns. Here are suggestions by the CDC for employers to support their employees’ mental health:
- Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees
- Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings from qualified mental health professionals, followed by directed feedback
- Offer health insurance
- Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs
- Distribute materials, such as brochures, flyers, and videos, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment
- Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation
- Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities
- Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress
- Encourage employees to seek help from qualified mental health professionals
- Give opportunities to take part in decisions about issues that affect job stress
- You can also offer incentives to reinforce healthy behaviors and track progress over time
Many of these methods have been proven to be successful in improving mental health and stress in the workplace. From taking care of your physical health to ensuring the office is safe for individuals to speak up, these are only a few things everyone can do.
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