Note from the Author
This article sets out to explain what exactly mental health is and how the workplace can affect it, either positively or negatively. Since we at Sustema, specialize in creating unique workplaces in highly strenuous environments, we felt the need to address the rising trend in mental health awareness. At the bottom of the article, we’ve included resources that can help you or someone you know help manage your mental health.
What is Mental Health?
The term mental health refers to our behavioral, cognitive, and emotional well-being. It is essentially concerned with the manner in which people behave, think, and feel. People frequently use the term to signify the absence of a mental disorder(s). Several factors contribute to mental health issues, including but not limited to:
Biological factors, such as our genes or brain’s chemistry
Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
Family history of mental health issues
Taking care of our mental health can improve our ability to enjoy life. Doing so requires taking a balanced approach to our lives. Specifically, it is important to not prioritize tasks such as work and school over leisure activities that bring us joy such as exercise and traveling.
Mental Health at the Workplace
Work-related stress is a major cause of issues related to mental health, poor physical health, decreased productivity, and human error. This results in an increase in absenteeism, a higher staff turnover, and poor job performance. In addition, an increase in accidents can arise in the workspace due to fatigued and stressed employees.
Work-related stress could also have physical side effects such as heart disease, headaches, back pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, or various minor illnesses. In addition to the latter complications, some may experience psychological effects such as depression and anxiety, a loss of concentration, and poor decision-making.
Put simply, stress is the unwanted reaction people experience to excessive amounts of pressure. Interestingly however is the fact that it has been proven that an apparent distinction between pressure and stress. Pressure in the scientific community can be considered to be a motivating factor, while stress, on the other hand, occurs when the pressure becomes excessive.
The mental health of a company’s employees is increasingly becoming a determining factor in the company’s overall performance and profitability. As such, companies have invested significant resources into improving their workspaces, making for a more comfortable work environment. For example, the corporate environment has seen a huge uptrend in ergonomics; the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products, processes, and systems. Also, employers have now been offering their employees the option of working a hybrid schedule (a combination of in-person and remote work). The above-mentioned examples have had a positive effect on mental health and subsequently, a decrease in physical illnesses which tend to arise from poor mental health has steadily taken place.
Mental Health Side-Effects
Some side-effects that are usually associated with poor mental health are, but not limited to:
Body aches and pains
In addition, poor mental health has also led to the rise of burn-out amongst employees. Burn-out as explained by the WHO is; a “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
Increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
Reduced professional efficacy.
The latter phenomena dramatically hinder a person’s ability to make a positive contribution to their professional and personal lives.
How to improve mental health in the workplace
At Sustema, we regularly emphasize the importance of mental health and remind one another that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. This simple act alone goes a long way and helps reduce the stigma in the workplace. Other ways we try to have a positive impact on mental health include:
Promoting work-life balance.
Encouraging respectful behaviors, with a zero-tolerance policy for harassment.
Having conflict resolution practices in place.
Recognizing employees’ contributions effectively.
Mental Health Resources