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World Mental Health Day - Mental Health in the Workplace

Posted 10-10-2017

October 10 is World Mental Health Day, a day not for dwelling on our differences, but instead focusing on the common goals that unite us. This year those goals are aimed towards mental health in the workplace.

As adults, we spend a significant amount of time at work, therefore our experience at work has a strong hand in determining our overall health. Employees involved in workplace initiatives designed to promote mental health have not only reported increased mood and physical health but an increase in productivity as well. On the other hand, those who report a negative experience and heavy stressful workloads with unreasonable expectations at work are more likely to experience physical and mental health problems, dropping productivity, and even increasing substance abuse problems.

This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing this year’s world mental health day on the workplace. In order to make the workplace a healthy one, both the institution and employees must be aware of the workplace environment and how it may be adapted to promote mental health. Here are some key facts to know about the correlation between mental health and the workplace. 

Key Facts

  • Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems
  • Depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity
  • Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.
  • There are many effective actions that organizations can take to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also benefit productivity

Following the principles of this guide, there are a number of smaller actions that both the business and the employee can take that can have far-reaching results toward building a healthy workplace, such as:

  • Organization of positive leaders and employees to provide an example for others to follow. Make sure those leading your business lead with positive motivation and are in tune with their employee's individual needs and motivations. 
  • Providing motivation and encouragement for employees to get involved. Oftentimes simple incentives such as employee lunches or a night at the bowling alley as a team can help build a bond between workers and leaders.
  • Simplifying the process by mirroring the actions of other organizations that have taken action. Take a look around. Find out what others are doing to keep their employee's morale up and repeat those behaviors at your own office.  
  • Understanding the needs, abilities, limits, and opportunities for individual employees to help guide workplace policy for better mental health
  • Opportunities for career development. An employee who feels stuck in their career may end up feeling stuck in life. Creating an environment that encourages growth gives employees the motivation they need to work hard to achieve goals. 
  • Implementation and enforcement of health policies such as identifying distress, harmful use of substances and illness and providing resources to help
  • Employee involvement in decision making
  • Affirming and rewarding employee contribution. If your employees are doing a great job, do you tell them? People that feel valued and appreciated will work at a higher level of productivity and creativity.  

Since we do spend a substantial amount of time at work, it is important for the workplace to be a safe place to talk about mental illness. Organizations have a responsibility to support individuals with mental disorders in either continuing or returning to work. A combination of the above-outlined actions can help individuals with mental disorders continue or return to work, most specifically flexible hours, job adaptation, positive workplace atmosphere, and supportive connection and confidential communication with management. Because of the stigma often associated with mental disorders, organizations, especially employers, need to ensure that employees feel supported, welcome, and able to ask for help in returning to or continuing work, and that they have the necessary resources available to do their job well, and maintain a healthy and happy working environment.