Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of World Mental Health Day – a global event recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) under the auspices of the World Federation for Mental Health.
One arena where inherent pressures and strains create unique mental health challenges and exacerbate pre-existing ones is undoubtedly the workplace.
According to one 2019 report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The report identified stress, depression and anxiety as responsible for 44% of work-related illnesses and 54% of lost work days in 2018 and 2019.
Given this significant impact, employers and corporate leaders simply do not have the luxury of focusing solely on organizational mental health on one day, if it is a year, or even pursuing it intermittently.
On the contrary, post-pandemic mental health crisis Currently, burnout in Western society is something that organizations must pay close and constant attention to.
There is also a need to understand the complexities of the interaction of mental health and the workplace and to appreciate that, as such, there are some simple one-size-fits-all modular solutions, but rather approaches that require painstaking elaboration and adaptation to many different drivers of mental health difficulties in working-age adults.
Different pressure points
These drivers can be broadly divided into two categories—those that arise directly from internal pressures related to specific job roles, and those that have their roots outside the workplace but are often intensified by its demands.
In the case of the latest worldwide disruptor of work/life balance – the Covid-19 pandemic, a dangerous intersection of internal and external elements was at play.
Of course, there were undoubtedly historic and unprecedented upheavals in work practices, some of which, like increased flexibility around working from home, were not entirely negative.
However, especially during those dark days of the spring and winter of 2020, everything inside and outside of work was shrouded in a sense of fear and dread as people were unable to attend the funerals of loved ones and lived with uncertainty in connection with theirs. health.
While Covid was hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime, if not once-in-a-century event, – there remain other life experiences that are always likely to drive mental health challenges in the workplace, but are often overlooked.
An example that usually flies under the radar is parenting. This may be because something like the arrival of a child is usually seen as a joyous occasion simply to be celebrated.
However, parenting children of all ages can cause significant mental health strain in the workplace for some employees.
After the pandemic, 43% of parents reported being more concerned about their children’s mental health, as this, in turn, negatively affects employee well-being and productivity.
On average, 70% of calls to the Health Line of BUPA, a leading private healthcare provider in the UK, have a family aspect.
At the same time, the perinatal period (the weeks immediately before and after birth) is a known risk zone for mental health difficulties that can be significantly increased by work pressures.
It is wrongly assumed that issues like perinatal depression or PTSD only apply to working women, but they can affect men as wellwho may struggle to accept what they are experiencing due to fear of misunderstanding and stigmatization.
Addressing the interplay of parenting and mental health in the workplace, Gosia Bowling, Nuffield Health’s National Lead for Mental Health says: “As well as financial stress, worry about the physical and mental wellbeing of our families can lead to sleep deprivation, reduced focus, stress and mood reduction. All of these symptoms are likely to affect well-being and productivity, both in people’s personal and professional lives.”
She continues, “Notifying parents and guardians of relevant employee support at key moments should be a business priority. Adopting employment practices and benefits that support your staff’s families help reduce stress, protect a better work-life balance and have further benefits for productivity, engagement and well-being in the workplace.”
Appropriate tables should include access to online mental health platforms for employees and their families with content based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that is part of standard employee benefits schemes.
According to research from LifeWorkswhich included a survey of nearly 500 employment professionals, employee assistance programs, awareness training, and wellness programs are often significantly underutilized due to a possible lack of awareness of these benefits or a lack of peer support.
Learning on the job
While some practices such as training line managers on how to discuss mental health issues with staff and strong HR policies to make the process of uncovering mental health problems as destigmatized as possible are table stakes – the importance of they should not be underestimated.
However, insufficient attention may be paid to the fact that particular job roles possess their own unique mental health challenges specific to that position.
During the pandemic, there was ample coverage of the bravery of key frontline workers, particularly within the health sector, and it should not be assumed that the consequences of such harrowing experiences are not still felt today.
However, certain parts of the service sector are also not without significant pitfalls.
In a recent media release, Kura, one of the UK’s largest outsourcing providers, wrote about the mental health challenges of call center work.
Addressing, in particular, roles in which customer service agents routinely receive a high volume of complaints – the company asked managers to consider rotating tasks between calls, alternative communication channels and administrative tasks to prevent employees from suffering unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety.
Earlier this year, LawCare 2021 Life in Law Report found that 69% of respondents working in the legal profession had experienced mental illness in the previous 12 months.
That same year, the International Bar Association (IBA) published “Mental well-being in the legal profession“ report and cited the mental well-being of legal professionals as an ongoing global concern.
Despite the various push and pull factors that lead to mental health challenges in the workplace – in terms of solutions, there remains a unique unifying thread.
Communication is key.
Whether it’s leadership shouting from the rooftops about employee benefit schemes and other mental health support or line managers demonstrating their openness to lend a friendly ear.
Of equal importance should be that staff members feel empowered to speak up without fear of stigma and a blow to career progression prospects.
In this way, mental health issues can emerge from the shadows they, unfortunately, all too often occupy and begin to receive the warming light of human compassion and expanded understanding.
Leave a Reply