Fortunately, mental health in the workplace has become much more of a talking point and a focus for organisations over the past few years, although there is still a lot more room for improvement.
Mental health issues are said to affect one in four people at some point in their lives and can have a significant impact on employee wellbeing. They are also known to be a major cause of long-term absence from work.
As employers, we need to be continuously looking for ways to promote good mental health in the workplace for the benefit of the people who work for us.
Why do we need to start making mental health a priority at work?
In recent years, there has been an increasing acknowledgment of the important role mental health plays in achieving global development goals, as illustrated by the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals.
When we look at the data, the numbers are appalling. According to the World Health Organization, depression is one of the leading causes of disability at work. People with severe mental health conditions often die more prematurely – as much as two decades early – due to often preventable physical conditions.
What is important to note from this report is that many mental health conditions can be effectively treated at a relatively low cost. It is a question of awareness, attention, and intention to voice it out and work on strategies together as individuals, leaders and organisations in order to understand, not only when symptoms appear, but also implement everything we have at our disposal to prevent them.
For this, we need to think beyond popular organisational campaigns such as meditation in the workplaces, mindfulness strategies, yoga offerings, or fruit in the office. Such approaches are indeed well-intended and valuable, but they tend to be overlooked after a period of time has elapsed (hedonic adaptation) or thought to have more of an immediate short term impact, which can lead to disappointment from management when they don’t work out as planned in the long run. This results in investment in such programs being reduced or cut when the going gets tough, which is contradictory because it is precisely in times of crisis and uncertainty that people need to feel supported, valued and cared for.
Organisations need to take a longer-term approach to managing mental health at work and change the underlying causes (poor workplace culture, stress and burnout due to overwork and unrealistic expectations, bullying and discimination), rather than treating the symptoms.
Below are some specific ways we can begin to promote mental health in the workplace:
- Mental health interventions at work, such as stress prevention programmes;
- Leader training in early interventions (e.g. providing a stable environment that is sensitive to employees’ health and emotional needs, opportunities for early learning, and interactions that are responsive, emotionally supportive and developmentally stimulating);
- Anti-discrimination laws and campaigns; and
- Bullying prevention programmes (from leaders as well as colleagues)
As mentioned before, you don’t need to implement high investment programs or any of the above all at once, you just need to have the intention to implement one to start with and then review and adjust as needed.
For a smart way to see which program you want to put into practice, use this infographic to guide you.
What does Emotional Salary have to do with mental health in the workplace?
Emotional Salary is the non-financial gains we obtain from working that motivate us, change our perception of work, and lead to personal and professional development.
It encompasses factors such as our sense of belonging in the workplace, our ability to be creative, to grow professionally and personally, and have the opportunity to enjoy our work, just to mention 5 of the 10 factors that constitute Emotional Salary.
All 10 factors that constitute Emotional Salary play an important role, in varying degrees, when we are aiming to improve our mental health at work. Given that we spend almost one-third of our lives at work, it would make sense to ensure that our place of work is an enjoyable one and contributes to a positive mental health outcome for each employee.
According to Gallup, only 22 percent of employees leave a job for financial reasons. This tells us that there are other factors that cause employees to become unhappy at their work and choose to leave. The factors encompassed in our research on Emotional Salary are some of the potential reasons that people may leave a job, and in some cases, some of these factors may also contribute to a poor level of mental health in the workplace when not properly nurtured and taken care of from the employee and employer side of things.
The challenge with identifying mental health issues in the workplace is that each individual may react differently to varying circumstances or have different experiences within the same role. We know that our mental health is very individual and personalised, so our path to ensuring a more positive working environment should also be analysed on an individual level, don’t you think?
We have developed the Emotional Salary Barometer with this in mind.
It is a unique personalised tool that allows you, as an individual, to understand the emotional benefits you personally receive from working, and tells you exactly how to implement this information immediately so that you can begin to make the improvements you need to your working life.
With more and more discussion around improving our mental health in the workplace, organizations and the leadership team have a key opportunity to look for methods of promoting good mental health within their organisations and businesses, and we believe that we can help contribute to a more positive environment and be an advocate for good mental health in the workplace through the tools that we have developed.
To learn more about how incorporating the Emotional Salary Barometer could help improve the mental wellbeing of your employees, click here.
Live Your Brand (the creators of the Emotional Salary Barometer) are people and organisational development specialists with passion, expertise and continuous learning at our core. We work with organisations who understand that their people are central to their success, both now and in the future, whatever challenges they may face. Through our tools and programmes, we encourage teams and organisations to listen deeply and be continuously inspired and energised by their people. We facilitate the creation of a platform for growth for all employees in the organisation, driving a clear sense of purpose and direction in order to deliver real and sustainable business results.