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Mental Health in The Workplace


Employee Management

Mental Health in The Workplace

There is a significant shift among employers and company cultures around the issue of mental health at workplaces. It’s a new era for mental health in the workplace.

August 17, 2022
min read
August 17, 2022
8 min read
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Mental Health in the Workplace

In recent years, the issue of mental health in workplaces has gained more awareness and urgency to another level. More employers, organizations, and employees have realized the importance of mental health and are embracing it.

A 2021 Mental Health at Work Report indicated that more employees were leaving their jobs for mental health-related reasons. It also showed that more employees discussed mental health at work in 2021 than in 2019. More importantly, 49% of the respondents reported receiving supportive/ positive feedback after raising issues related to mental health at work. There is a significant shift among employers and company cultures around the issue of mental health at workplaces. It’s a new era for mental health in the workplace.

What is Mental Health in the Workplace? 

Mental health in the workplace focuses on employees’ emotional, psychological and social well-being within their respective work environments. It affects how employees think, feel and act. More importantly, mental health affects how one copes with day-to-day stress and realizes their potential and productivity. 

Why is Mental Health Important in Workplace? 

It has often been reported that the Covid-19 pandemic and the new hybrid work model led to a global prevalence of mental health issues among employees. The World Health Organization (WHO) outlines that depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy $ US 1 trillion due to lost productivity annually. Besides, absenteeism at the workplace can increase due to emotional and physical discomfort from work-related stress and anxiety.  

Below are several reasons why supporting and providing mental health care in the workplace is essential: 

1. Boost productivity 

Every organization or employer bets on a healthy and productive workforce! Employees with poor mental well-being are likely to lose productivity. Consequently, it’s likely to affect their morale, commitment, innovation, and productivity. 

On the other hand, good mental health is likely to boost employee productivity, increase their presence and prevent job abandonment at the workplace.  

2. It prevents expensive costs in the future 

Usually, employees experiencing mental health issues at the workplace are likely to leave. According to Zippia, it costs up to 40% of an employee’s base salary to hire a new employee with benefits. Also, it takes about 12 weeks for a new hire to become productive at work. 

Undoubtedly, proactive measures to address employee mental health care can save employers a high cost in the future. 

3. It’s a good investment for your business 

As outlined above, a mentally healthy workforce contributes significantly to the organization for which they work. There are higher chances of increased productivity, innovation, customer service, employee retention, and engagement. Consequently, employers lower medical cost related to mental illnesses, and revenue and innovation in the organization increases significantly. 

A WHO-led study also estimates that every US $1 invested in scaling mental health promotion leads to a return of US $4 for organizations. 

4. It’s what you should do

As required by various international labour laws and local regulations, employers must ensure that their employees are healthy and safe at their workplaces. Generally, employers are responsible for ensuring employees work in a sound mental health environment. Some employers have a mental health policy. 

What are the Effects of Poor Mental Health in the Workplace? 

Poor mental health in the workplace has several effects (long and short) on businesses and their employees. These effects may be direct or indirect;

1. Low productivity and poor performance 

According to CDC, mental illnesses such as depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical tasks and reduce cognitive performance about 20% and 35% of the time, respectively. Additionally, employees are likely to lose concentration, thus making it difficult to perform their daily tasks/activities. 

2. Increased or frequent absenteeism 

If employees lack mental health support and their well-being is not taken care of, they’re likely to feel demotivated to work come into the workplace. In such a situation, their morale is low, and they will frequently call out sick leave. Such signs also show employee dissatisfaction with their job. 

3. High employee turnover 

Poor mental health causes reduced employee engagement, and they often feel unsatisfied. As a result, they’re likely to leave and move to a different organization/ employer where they feel valued. On the other hand, employers start another time-consuming and costly process of hiring new employees. 

4. Decreased profits 

If employees are not productive and motivated, they’re frequently absent, and there is high employee turnover, employers feel the impact on the profits. Companies register low-profit margins because there is reduced efficiency and minimal innovations. To some extent, poor mental health among employees also affects how they interact with the business’ potential customers. 

Factors Can Lead to Mental Health Issues in the Workplace 

Below are some of the main factors causing mental health issues in the workplace: 

  1. Long and inflexible working hours
  2. Unresolved conflicts and poor relationships among coworkers and bosses 
  3. Heavy workload with tight deadlines 
  4. Low level of support for employees (it may include social support, financial, professional, resources or equipment). 
  5. Poor communication and management practices within an organization 
  6. Inadequate health and safety practices 
  7. Discrimination, stigma, and harassment in a workplace 
  8. Job insecurity

How To Deal With Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

Employers ought to strive to achieve good mental health in their workplace. Here are some of the ways/ tips/ strategies to deal with mental health issues as an employer or leader in your organization: 

1. Create a psychologically safe workplace 

A psychologically safe environment means that team members or employees are comfortable being themselves and free to share their ideas without embarrassment, rejection, or punishment. This is one of the great ways to promote good mental health in the workplace. 

Among ways you can achieve a psychologically safe workplace include: 

  • Promoting self-awareness 
  • Promoting dialogue and discussions
  • Having various ways for employees to share their thoughts 
  • Building a culture of appreciation for ideas, milestones, or achievements
  • Encouraging employees and bosses to own up to their mistakes 

You can create and implement a comprehensive workplace health and safety (CWHS) program. Such a program helps you maintain an exceptional workforce with quality work life and mental well-being. 

2. Promote a good work-life balance 

Check out this guide on how to manage work-life balance.

1. Encourage employees and make them part of the decision-making on issues that affect them.

2. Assign reasonable workloads 

3. Clearly define the responsibilities of each team or employees 

4. Encourage effective communication in the workplace 

5. Have suitable techniques or ways of  solving conflicts 

6. Recognize potential mental health issues and address them effectively 

7. Partner with mental providers offering wellness programs to support mental health within your organization like Antara Health.

8. Nurture social support among employees  

Should employees quit their jobs if it is affecting their Mental Health? 

If a job stresses an employee excessively and drains their mental health in a workplace with minimal support, they should consider quitting. However, if they are in a supportive workplace and at the same time struggling with their mental health, they should talk to their leader or manager about the situation. Maybe they might reconsider giving a simple break or a lesser workload. 

Notably, it would be best for an employee to consider quitting with a plan on how to sustain life and what to do after that. Leaving without a plan might deteriorate mental health, especially if not financially and psychologically sound. For this reason, employees should work with a counsellor, career coach or cognitive specialist before making a solid decision about quitting their jobs to save their mental health.

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Workpay is a HR and Payroll software company that offers time & attendance, payroll, human resource, leave, expenses and remote teams solutions to businesses across Africa.

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