In a world where the pace of life seems to be ever-accelerating, and the demands of the workplace continue to evolve, mental health has emerged as a critical and pressing concern. Over the past few years, there has been a paradigm shift in how we view mental health, especially in the workplace. Gladly the taboo was broken and the 10th of October marks World Mental Health Day. That is an opportune moment to reflect on the significance of mental health in the context of our professional lives.
As a mental health ambassador, I want to delve into the critical importance of mental health in the workplace—the significance of it and its positive impacts on both employees and organisations. Of course, I couldn’t miss this opportunity to promote 5 steps to foster a mentally healthy work environment and share some cool examples from three big corporations.
So, let us get to it.
The Silent Struggle
The Staggering Statistics
Mental health issues are not confined to specific individuals or industries; they are universal. In fact, they affect people across all walks of life and in every corner of the globe. To grasp the extent of the issue, consider these statistics:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. (here)
- According to the American Psychological Association, nearly half of working Americans report they are “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressed due to work. (here)
- The Lancet Glob Health states that mental health issues cost the global economy over $1 trillion in lost productivity annually. (here)
These numbers demonstrate that the impact of mental health issues is not only deeply personal but also economically significant. To address these challenges, we must understand the root causes within the workplace.
The Workplace’s Role
The workplace is where we spend a substantial portion of our lives and where the seeds of many mental health issues are sown. The following factors contribute to this:
- High Workload and Pressure: Many employees face overwhelming workloads and tight deadlines in today’s fast-paced world. The constant pressure to perform can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout.
- Job Insecurity: In an era of economic uncertainty, many workers are plagued by the fear of job loss. This fear can profoundly impact mental health, causing stress and anxiety.
- Lack of Work-Life Balance: Modern technology has blurred the lines between work and personal life. This constant connectivity can disrupt the balance between the two, leading to burnout and reduced well-being.
- Stigma: Despite growing awareness, there is still a significant stigma attached to mental health issues in the workplace. Many employees fear that disclosing their struggles will negatively impact their career prospects.
- Lack of Support: In some workplaces, mental health remains taboo, and there may be an absence of resources or support for employees facing mental health challenges.
Fostering a Mentally Healthy Workplace in 5 steps
- A Cultural Shift: Creating a mentally healthy workplace begins with a cultural shift. Organisations must embrace the idea that employee well-being is a moral obligation and a strategic imperative. This shift should be led from the top, with executives and managers championing the cause.
- Breaking the Stigma: One of the most significant obstacles in addressing mental health in the workplace is the stigma surrounding it. To overcome this, organisations can:
- Educate employees about mental health.
- Encourage open and honest conversations.
- Provide training for managers to recognise signs of mental health issues.
- Develop clear and compassionate mental health policies.
- Work-Life Balance: A work-life balance is not just a perk but a necessity. Organisations can support this by:
- Implementing flexible work hours.
- Encouraging the use of vacation days.
- Limiting after-hours communication.
- Promoting mindfulness and self-care.
- Support and Resources: Employees need access to mental health support and resources. This can include:
- Offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
- Providing counseling services.
- Creating peer support groups.
- Offering resources like stress management workshops.
- Promoting Employee Engagement: Engaged employees tend to have better mental health. Organisations can:
- Foster a sense of purpose and belonging.
- Recognise and reward employee contributions.
- Encourage skill development and growth.
Google’s “Jolly Good Fellow”
Google has been a pioneer in addressing mental health in the workplace. Chade-Meng Tan, a former Google engineer, coined the title “Jolly Good Fellow” for his job, which involved promoting mindfulness and emotional intelligence among employees. Google introduced “Search Inside Yourself,” a program aimed at improving employee well-being, and reported impressive results, including increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Thrive at LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s “Thrive” program focuses on well-being, offering activities and resources to support mental health. They provide various services, from mindfulness courses to fitness classes and counselling sessions. The company has noticed a significant increase in employee engagement and overall job satisfaction.
Salesforce’s 1-1-1 Model
Salesforce has integrated philanthropy into its core business model with the 1-1-1 Model, which commits to donating 1% of equity, 1% of product, and 1% of employee time to support nonprofits. By encouraging employees to give back to the community, Salesforce fosters a sense of purpose and fulfilment, ultimately benefiting the mental health of its workforce.
How to Measure the Impact
Regular employee surveys can help organisations assess the mental health of their workforce. Questions related to stress levels, work-life balance, and access to support can provide valuable insights.
Absenteeism and Turnover
High absenteeism and employee turnover rates can be indicators of poor mental health in the workplace. Tracking these metrics over time can reveal trends and areas of concern.
Productivity and Innovation
Mental health issues can significantly impact an employee’s ability to focus, be creative, and solve problems. Monitoring productivity and innovation levels can help organisations gauge the impact of their mental health initiatives.
Collecting feedback from employees who have benefitted from mental health support can provide qualitative insights into the impact of these programs. These stories can serve as powerful testimonials for the success of your initiatives and ignite others to join.
Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to experience both sides of the coin. And that experience allowed me to understand that the importance of mental health in the workplace cannot be overstated. It is not just a matter of compassion but a fundamental aspect of creating a thriving and productive work environment. By addressing the root causes of mental health challenges, breaking the stigma, and fostering a culture of support, organisations can improve the well-being of their employees and enhance their own success.
As we celebrate World Mental Health Day, let us commit to prioritising mental health in the workplace, ensuring that every employee can thrive, personally and professionally. A mentally healthy workplace is a dream and a strategic imperative that benefits individuals and organisations alike.