Mental Health in the Workplace


Work-related stress or mental health problems can affect anyone regardless of their position in the organization. Work-related stress is a growing problem around the world that affects not only the health and well-being of employees, but also the productivity of organizations. Work-related stress arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope. Although the experience of stress is psychological, it also affects people’s physical health.
Work is a major part of our lives. It is where we spend much of our time, where we may have most contact with other people, where we make our money and where we sometimes make our friends. Having a fulfilling job is good for one’s mental health and general well-being. Frequently people with mental illness conceal their illness for fear of discrimination when looking for or keeping a job. Stigma and lack of awareness of mental health at the workplace persist as barriers to equality. Globalization has also contributed to work related stress and other mental health problems.

Workplace Mental health should focus on 3 inter-related components as follows.

  • Individual Employees – These are the organization’s key resources. Employees mental health should be promoted all the time because they actualize the organizations mission and have influence on customers or clients.
  • The Working Environment – Must be safe and healthy. Employee’s health and welfare must be protected through risk assessments and favorable workplace policies.
  • The organizational structure – This has a significant effect on morale and how employees are motivated to do their work. Issues to consider include communication styles, professional development, management styles, all of which have an impact on an employee’s mental wellbeing.

Some of the factors that commonly cause work-related stress include:

  • Workload – this can either be Excessive workload or Insufficient work. Employees who have too much workload can suffer from poor work-life balance, higher stress levels, and result in low productivity.
  • Insufficient work can result in a lack of satisfaction which can contribute to mental stress.
  • Poor interpersonal relationships – Unsupportive supervision, poor relationships with colleagues, bullying, harassment, or violence can have an impact on employee’s stress levels.
  • Workplace culture – This can involve poor communication, poor leadership, lack of clarity about workplace objectives and structure. A poor company culture may not inspire employees to be more productive and positive at work and will in turn increase turnover.
  • Insufficient skills for the job – Skill gaps have the potential to harm an organization’s productivity as worker productivity is likely to be lower. This can in turn result in stress due to non-performance.
  • Lack of proper resources / equipment’s – Inadequate resources can be a major pain point for employee, as it can lead to delays, increased workload, and reduced productivity.
  • Working environment and conditions – This may include noise, pollution, light, danger. Irregular working hours like shift work or excessive working hours if not well balanced can result to burn out and stress.

Implication of mental health at workplace

  • Organizational level – Mental health issues can have a negative impact on the organization’s operations in the following ways: High staff turnover, disciplinary problems, absenteeism, presenteeism, poor timekeeping, errors, and increased use of medical cover.
  • Individual level – Without effective support, mental disorders and other mental health conditions can affect a person’s confidence and identity at work, and capacity to work productively. It can also cause someone to lose concentration, making it very difficult to multi-task and carry out day-to-day work activities.

What employers/managers can do to create a safe work environment:

  • Identifying and addressing factors that affect mental health in the workplace like workloads, insufficient training among others.
  • Raise awareness on what employees can do to look after their own and other’s mental wellbeing.
  • Recognizing that all employees have mental health needs and provide support options which are confidential and non-stigmatizing.
  • Building a working culture where mental health issues are not a taboo.
  • Review employment practices to ensure employees with mental problems are not excluded.
  • Support employees at risk by organizing their mental support services.
  • Ensure that every employee is properly trained for their job to avoid skill gap which can lead to low productivity.

Workplace health promotion programs have proven to be successful, especially when they combine mental and physical health interventions. Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to treatment and put in place support to help people reduce and manage mental and emotional challenges.

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