The importance of a mentally healthy workplace
A famous adage says “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” – true; but this is not enough to guarantee you’ll wake up every day eager to go to work. The problem of job satisfaction is much more complex, and an often overlooked aspect is that of having a mentally healthy workplace.
On average, 40 hours/week of an individual’s time spent at their workplace; the heavy workloads, high demands, and long hours, are all elements that can affect one’s physical and mental wellbeing and health.
Most managers and bosses aren’t aware of the mental health issues that can arise in the work place, resulting in employees suffering in silence with no help. These key decision-makers in every organisation need to start becoming more aware and prioritise their employee’s mental wellbeing as it creates a healthier workplace overall. Additionally, productivity increases when employees feel good at their workplace, and people demonstrate more willingness to tasks, increased commitment, and a higher job satisfaction.
A global concern
Mental health in the workplace is an important concern for the World Health Organization, which warns affiliations all over the world that a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. If bosses don’t really care about their employee’s happiness, they should start implementing mental health policies for their own sake; to be more specific, for making more profit, as depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.
In Australia, the National Mental Health Commission has established the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance in 2013 to encourage Australian workplaces to become mentally healthy for the benefit of the whole community and businesses, big and small.
A national campaign – Heads Up – has been rolled out to provide support and for all businesses across all sectors. Resources for businesses of all sizes have been produced, with focus on managers, the boardroom, and employees.
You can find information and resources on how to create a more mentally healthy workplace here.
Employee mental health in your organisation
As there is plenty of support for those looking to ensure a mentally healthy workplace for their employees and the benefits of doing so in terms of productivity and profitability are significant, following this direction is vital for your organisation too.
Ready to make your employees happy and more efficient? These are the steps to improving mental health in the workplace:
Assess what is currently implemented in your particular workplace to help improve mental health. Identify what can be changed/improved, starting with apparently minor aspects like co-workers saying “Thank you!” and greeting each other on arrival and departure. You can apply a questionnaire where employees can express their opinions and thoughts (preferably anonymously) on what makes them feel comfortable or not at the workplace.
First of all, you need to determine to what extent your workplace is employee-friendly and oriented towards mental wellbeing. For a basic assessment, you can use the 10 characteristics of a mentally healthy workplace described on this human resources website:
- People greet each other in the morning, smile, make eye contact and say ‘thank you’
- Managers support and facilitate flexible work to meet individual needs
- Managers are accessible when you need them and will listen
- There is effective team work and a supportive team environment
- Managers make sure employees have the resources to do the job adequately
- There is praise and recognition for good performance and achievement
- Managers give clear guidance on priorities and what is expected of employees
- Managers set a good example for a happy, healthy and productive workforce
- There is sensitivity to the needs of those who have children or others to care for
- Managers provide regular feedback in a way that helps employees improve their performance
The whole idea of this assessment is to identify risk factors that could deter/affect your employee’s mental health, with the most common being:
- Long hours
- Heavy workloads
- Impractical deadlines
- Lack of support
- Unclear/unrealistic expectations
- Little to no recognition of achievements
Remember to take into consideration ALL employees’ mental health, and not listen to just the ones who speak out and are open about it.
Once you’ve obtained an accurate picture of your workplace and the way it affects your employees’ mental health, it’s time to make the required changes/improvements.
Assist staff with managing workloads
Make people aware there is support and take measures such as:
- Discouraging the “art” of multitasking
- Teaching employees how to prioritise work
- Monitoring employee progress during the completion of tasks
- Using planning software
- Communicating clearly with staff
- Assigning workload according to staff capabilities
- Distributing difficult tasks first
Create a safe and supportive space
Many employees who feel stressed at the workplace complain about their bosses not offering feedback or only reacting as a result of their failures. Often, these employees don’t express their concerns and lack of satisfaction openly because their remarks fall on deaf ears. What you can do to make your staff feel supported is to:
- Express that there is help available and make this more than just a statement
- Celebrate achievements; it is better to focus on the success of individuals rather than the success of a team
- Discourage unhealthy competition at the workplace – don’t promise a huge reward to the person achieving the highest sales level, for instance, without appreciating the work of the other employees as well
- Create win-win situations for your staff and managers rather than implementing a philosophy of “I win, you lose”
- Make them feel safe enough to talk to the employer about their mental health, if they’re not coping, etc.
- Organise leisure activities for your staff like weekly yoga and runs.
Provide a clean and healthy workplace
It’s not only how people behave at your workplace that makes a difference in your staff’s mental health; the quality of the environment is equally important.
Spending 5/7 days a week in an office is a lot of time and the physical environment around staff is a major contributing factor to their health. Messy workplaces increase stress and make people feel drained, thus lowering productivity and job satisfaction. A few pieces of advice to ensure a healthy environment at the workplace are:
- Utilising natural sunlight as much as possible
- Creating spacious working areas
- Providing comfortable furniture/equipment
- Ensuring the safety of the workplace to reduce the worry of your employees – nobody wants to work under a cracked ceiling
- Never allowing employees skip lunch breaks
- Setting workstations that allow colleagues to see and interact with one another to create a cohesive feeling
- Reducing lengthy trips to get to resources or to talk to department colleagues
- Avoiding work stations that have walk-through traffic because this causes continual interruptions
- Facilitating fresh air flow
With benefits such as increased productivity and employee retention, having a mentally healthy workplace should be priority for your business – if employees are happy, the organisation is functioning properly and attaining the objects set by managers.
The good news is you don’t need struggle all by yourself to improve workplace environment. Creative Quality Solutions is here to help with the assessment of your workplace in terms of employee mental health and wellbeing and to propose the solutions best suiting your organisation. We are compliant with the recommendations provided by the National Mental Health Commission and we have extensive experience with creating mentally healthy workplaces. Contact us today for happy, productive employees delivering better performance for your business!