Today is World Mental Health Day, a day in which we encourage an open and safe discussion of the mental health issues that affect so many Canadians. While physical health might be a primary concern for many people, mental health is just as important and sadly receives far less attention.
For this year’s World Mental Health Day, there is a special focus on mental health within the workplace. A person’s workplace can be a substantial contributor to their own mental health and this is a great opportunity to discuss some of the ways it can become a factor to poor mental health. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has identified some of the major factors a workplace can play in regard to mental health and how they can be addressed so as to create a positive work environment. If you are a manager, consider whether your workplace succeeds in creating a healthy workplace or if there’s room to improve. If you are an employee, consider if these issues are addressed at work and, if not, bring them to your organization’s attention. Many people struggle with mental health, but if we all stay educated and willing to talk about it, then they won’t have to struggle alone.
The organizational culture is a major part of how employees address their work and behave in the workplace. It is the norms, beliefs and values that are established by an organization which then influence how the employees feel they need to approach their workplace. Healthy organizational culture is one that puts trust, honesty and respect as it’s main pillars. Employees don’t feel as though they are in competition with one another. They feel as though they can speak to management honestly about issues without fear of punishment. They feel as though their work is valued. The workplace should not feel as though it is a bunch of individuals working in the same building, but rather a team who are all looking to reach the same goal. Teamwork and job satisfaction are indicators of a healthy organizational culture and one that every organization should strive for.
Psychological and Social Support
As anyone who has ever held a job knows, sometimes things from outside of work can make their way into work. Personal struggles can affect a person’s performance and cause problems to occur with their work. While productivity and quality work are important, ignoring that there are other factors contributing to the problem will not help to solve anything. Psychological and social support within the workplace allows employees to feel as though they can be honest about such problems and that they can be helped in ensuring they can address their personal issues while keeping their work from suffering,
Clear Leadership & Expectations
Leadership is an obvious contributor to how comfortable employees feel at work. One of the most important things a leader can do if to provide clear and respectful guidance to their employees and their work. Many managers and people in leadership positions hate micromanaging but there is a great difference between micromanaging and providing clear leadership. This can include giving feedback on work that helps direct employees in the right direction, providing timely information and letting everyone know what is expected of them in their roles. This leads to confidence in leadership and keeps employee morale strong.
Civility & Respect
Stress is not an uncommon occurrence in the workplace. How we deal with stress does not only affect us but also those we work with. When you find yourself overwhelmed at work, you must remember that it is still important to be civil and respectful to your coworkers. If you are on the other side of a conflict, returning disrespectful behaviour with respect can often deescalate the situation. Teamwork is important in every workplace, and civility and respect help to ensure that any collaboration is successful.
When we get a job, we’ve, to some degree, established that we have the knowledge and experience to successfully perform in this position. However, while we focus on the general responsibilities of a job, we do not always consider the psychological demands of jobs. These are the aspects of our job that can put undo psychological stress on us and make for an unpleasant work experience. Understanding the psychological demands of the job can help to better prepare and address them. Organizations should also be prepared to help employees deal with these demands through training and support.
Growth & Development
While we may enter a job feeling content and excited about the work it provides us, there is no guarantee things will remain so pleasant. When we become stagnant in our jobs, we can often become bored which leads to unhappiness with our work. We need to be able to grow in our workplace and our organization can play a big role in that. Employers should encourage employees’ willingness to achieve more within the organization, rather than try to keep a good employee where they are. Training, education and planning are all ways organizations can allow employees to develop and give them a better sense of purpose.
Recognition & Reward
We don’t work just to get recognition but it is an important contributor to our overall happiness at work. When we know we are doing good work, hopefully we are able to acknowledge it ourselves and be proud of it, but when that good work goes unnoticed by employers, it can be defeating. Managers and employers need to recognize when good work is being done. This can be done by way of an actual reward or it could be a simple discussion with the employee letting them know their work is appreciated. This encourages workers to continue to produce quality work while remaining content in a workplace that recognizes their efforts.
Involvement & Influence
Feeling as though you are an integral part of an organization goes a long way in feeling valued at work. How can employers ensure that their workers feel as though they are involved in the company? One way is to give employees opportunities to be heard and influence how the organization runs. This could mean taking employee suggestions on any changes or improvements that are to be made to the organization. Even if the suggestions are not feasible, explain to the employees why so that they feel they are being listened to. Such involvement gives employees the sense they are an important and valued part of a bigger operation.
There are times when we have all been busy at work, and sometimes those temporary increases in the workload are unavoidable. However, employers must understand that at a certain point an excessive workload cannot realistically be handled by a single person. When employees are overwhelmed by their work they can start making mistakes and add more stress to the situation. Employers must be clear with employees about priority of work and how certain work can be delegated. Open communication once again can help to overcome negative situations.
Staying motivated at work is a good way to stay content with your job. How a person is motivated by there work can differ greatly from person to person, but generally deals with how a person engages with their work. If they engage on a physical basis, work can provide them with energy and activity throughout the day. When they engage emotionally they can find purpose and feel as though their work is making a difference. When they engage cognitively they can see work as a place of learning and growing. Changes to your work can sometimes change your engagement and make you less attached to your work. Employers should be mindful and respectful of such concerns from employees and work to make they more engaged.
Work is important but it is not, and should not, control a person’s life. Sometimes it can be difficult for those running an organization to consider the importance of a work life balance for their employees but it is essential for keeping a happy and healthy workforce. Allowing reasonable flexibility for your employees means they can establish a healthy relationship between time spent at work and time spent at home. This also means encouraging employees to take the time off they have earned, to go cut out working late and to take their breaks.
When we think of harmful aspects of the workplace, we often think of those things that are physical dangers. However, it’s important to recognize and address those aspects of the workplace that can provide psychological harm. This can be anything from abusive coworkers, hostile managers and a general combative workforce. For example, when employees are afraid of bringing issues to their manager, this creates a workplace of fear and is psychologically harmful. Addressing these issues and ensuring the workforce is protected from such harm is necessary in make a healthy work environment.
Protection of Physical Safety
Of course, physical safety is also a big part of keeping a workplace safe and it can also be a contributor to your mental health as well. If you are in an environment which you have to work but don’t feel physically safe, it can put a lot of emotional stress on you. Your own work space is also a factor as how your desk is set up or your computer monitor can cause physical harm which in turn affects your emotional performance in the job. Employees should feel safe bring these concerns forward and managers should be aware of any and all potential dangers to employees.
If you feel as though you are suffering from mental health or have any questions, see your doctor and remeber you are not alone.