Mental Health at Work

Mental health is a key component of a human’s overall health. Unfortunately, many people don’t care as much as they should about their emotional well-being. We always have work to do, people to care for, goals to chase, and deadlines to beat, leaving us little or no time to care for our emotional wellbeing. 

Employers need to take the lead as far as their employees’ emotional wellness is concerned, for many reasons. The biggest of all reasons is that employees’ emotional well-being has a huge impact on their productivity. According to the CDC, poor emotional well-being is characterized by emotional outbursts, inability to solve conflicts, errors in thinking, panic attacks, reduced cognitive performance, depression, and absenteeism. All these reduce workplace performance by at least 20%. 

With this in mind, how can you support the emotional wellness of your employees? 

1.     Nurture meaningful workplace relationships 

With prolonged work hours, it is almost impossible for workers to make friends outside of the workplace. You need to create a community in the office- a safe environment for friendships to thrive. Create an environment where communication and social interactions happen smoothly. There are many ways to accomplish this: 

–          Create an office kitchen and a break room where employees can have coffee dates and casual conversations. 

–          Sponsor regular team-building activities. Simple activities such as cooking competitions can go a long way in fostering meaningful social interactions. 

–          In case of an unfortunate life event affecting one of your employees, e.g. death of a close relative, lead your team to stand by the affected team member. 

–          Encourage employees to celebrate professional and personal milestones in the office. 

–          Allow staff members to bring their children or pets to work every now and then. You can even organize special parties for your employees’ kids as a way of enlarging the workplace community. 

–          Encourage senior employees to help junior employees advance their careers. You can do that by rewarding senior staff members who take young professionals under their wings and help them accelerate their career growth. 

–          Provide exceptional employees with a fair opportunity to rise through the ranks. 

2.     Establish emotional wellness training programs 

Emotional wellness and mental health awareness training equip workers with the skills and knowledge needed to maintain their own mental well-being and to take positive action to support their colleagues’ mental well-being. A good emotional wellness program should: 

·         Enable workers to recognize key signs and symptoms of depression and emotional outbursts before things escalate. 

·         Explore practical strategies that team members can deploy in helping their colleagues who struggle with poor emotional wellness. It should train them to intervene in a practical way to support colleagues who need emotional support. 

·         Help your staff members understand the stigma that poor mental health puts patients through. It should help your employees keep their own attitudes towards mental health in check. 

·         Educate team members on the impact of unreasonable workloads, unrealistic career goals, and unresolved workplace conflicts on their emotional wellbeing.  

·         Build awareness of actions that team members can take to protect their mental health. It should also train members to take care of themselves, ask for help, and access support when overwhelmed. 

3.     Give a voice to everyone in your team 

Sometimes your employees are stressed because they don’t know what you think of them, but then they cannot ask because of the fear of victimization. Sometimes the conditions in and around their workstations are so unfavorable but no one on your team has the confidence to talk to you about it. And then there are times when employees feel worthless and valueless, and that hurts their morale and emotional wellbeing. That is why you should be very intentional in giving a voice to everyone in your team. Among other things: 

·         Communicate more than you think you need to. Keep your employees informed about workplace expectations, KPIs, organizational culture, goals & priorities, budgets & compensations, work hours, and any piece of information that an employee might stress over. 

·         Be honest and fair when assessing employee performance. Talk to individual employees concerning their performance and how to improve it. 

·         Be empathetic, friendly, trustworthy, and approachable. Employees should trust you enough to (respectfully) critic your decisions and share important feedback with you. 

·         Train yourself to listen to staff members especially when they have serious complaints against the leadership. Learn to read their body language and intervene in a timely manner. 

·         Always consult employees when making decisions that impact them directly. 

4.     Encourage physical fitness in the workplace 

People who exercise regularly are happier, less susceptible to mental outbursts, and generally, emotionally fit. This is because physical activity boosts the release of endorphins in the brain. 

So, how do you encourage physical fitness in the workplace? 

The best place to start is by establishing a health and wellness program. Create an office gym and equip it with a mini exercise ball, small hand weights, a balance ball chair, a treadmill desk, a yoga mat, and any other necessary gym equipment. This will not only encourage employees to work out but will also create a work-free environment where employees can meet up, build friendships, and burn off some steam. When designing the office gym, remember to install rubber lock tiles in the gym in order to prevent unwanted slip and fall cases. Rubber tiles are great because they don’t dent, scratch, or gouge as easily as hardwood flooring. And for employees who love high-impact cardio workouts, these tiles are ideal for them because of their unbeatable impact-absorbing properties. 

Other ways to encourage employees to stay fit include: 

·         If you cannot afford an office gym at the moment, work with local gyms and fitness clubs to create favorable membership deals for your employees. 

·         To encourage healthy snacking, stock the vending machine with healthy drinks and organic snacks. Get rid of all junk food options. 

·         Give refillable water bottles to staff members as a way of encouraging regular hydration. 

·         Provide employees with pedometers to encourage them to track their steps 

·         Bring in a professional chef or a nutritionist every now and then to train your workers on how to cook affordable healthy foods at home. 

·         Hold walking meetings to get people moving. 

·         Invest in standing desks to discourage people from living a sedentary lifestyle. 

5.     Give employees as much flexibility as possible 

Help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance by supporting them to work from home. People who work from home are generally happier than in-office employees because they get relatively more sleep, they spend more time with the people they love, and they don’t have to deal with crazy traffic to and from work. So, whenever possible, give your employees the flexibility to work away from the office. 

Note that allowing remote working isn’t the best you can do as far as flexible working is concerned. In fact, that is the bare minimum. To be a truly flexible employer, you need to appreciate that your remote workers have different home environments, sleep patterns, family demands, and peak productivity hours. That understanding will help you move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working and instead allow employees to work when they feel most productive. Avoid micromanaging them for as long as they deliver on all the KPIs you’ve set. 

Final word 

Every workplace has employees who struggle with mental health issues. The question, therefore, is this: Do you have policies in place to support employees with poor emotional wellbeing? You need. This is the time to start supporting emotional wellness in the office if you haven’t started already. The 5 points above will help you get started. 

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