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Mental Health Practices in the Workplace
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- September 22, 2022
The normalization of mental health issues in the workplace is one silver lining among all the chaos ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers just recently began to understand these issues’ ubiquity, the necessity to confront stigma, and the growing relationship between diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) in 2019.
After the year 2020, mental health support no longer counted as a luxury but rather as a need for every successful company. In 2021, the stakes have risen even more since there is a stronger understanding of the workplace conditions that might lead to poor mental health and a greater urgency over its interconnections with DEI.
The steps that businesses have taken in response, such as mental health days or weeks, four-day workweeks, and improved counseling benefits or applications, are inadequate. Employers must undertake the difficult task of cultural transformation if they want to provide the long-term stability and mental wellness that employees need.
Offering the newest applications or using euphemisms like “well-being”, “stress management” or “mental fitness” isn’t enough. It is essential for businesses to back up their claims with action.
How a Worker Experiences Mental Health
The 2021 Mental Health at Work Report from Mind Share Partners, in collaboration with Qualtrics and ServiceNow, provided a unique comparison of the condition of mental health, stigma, and work culture before and after the pandemic.
Responses from 1,500 full-time working adults in the United States were collected, with significant statistical representation across racial and ethnic backgrounds, generational divides, primary caregiver statuses, seniority levels and other factors.
When data on how employees deal with mental health issues was studied, it was discovered that the prevalence grew from 2019 to 2021.
Higher dropout rates
Higher dropout rates. More people are leaving their jobs because of their mental health, including problems caused by workplace circumstances like excessive or impossible work. Even though the rates of attrition in 2019 were already very high, they have gotten even higher since then. 68 percent of Millennials (50 percent in 2019) and 81 percent of Gen Zers (75 percent in 2019) have left jobs for mental health reasons, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
This is compared to 50 percent of respondents overall (34 percent in 2019). The number of people who believed a company’s culture could also support mental health went up from 86 percent in 2019 to 91 percent in 2020.
Mental health challenges are now prominent in all levels of an organization’s workforce. Seventy-six percent of people who answered the survey said they had at least one sign of a mental health problem in the past year, which is up from 59 percent in 2019. Even though that’s not a big shock given how many macro stressors there are, it backs up the idea that almost all people have experienced mental health challenges on a regular basis.
The 2019 study showed that all levels of seniority had the same number of mental health symptoms. This disproves the idea that successful leaders are invulnerable to mental health problems. The 2021 research found that C-level and executive respondents were now more likely than others to experience at least one mental health symptom, perhaps as a consequence of having to lead during this unprecedented age. Let’s end the stigma and talk openly about how we all struggle with mental health sometimes.
Widespread disclosure. In 2019, more people talked about their mental health at work. Nearly two-thirds of the people who answered the survey have talked to someone at work about their mental health in the past year.
When it comes to decreasing the negative effects of stigma on people’s decisions to get help from psychologists and therapists, this is a very positive development. Still, only 49 percent of respondents said that talking about their mental health at work was a good experience or that they got a supportive response, one that is about the same as 2019 rates.
How Employers Can Adapt
Overcome stigma by normalizing the topic
Even though mental illness is on everyone’s mind, stigma is still a strong force that makes it hard for employees to get the help they need from psychologists and therapists. One of the best things a leader can do is make space in public and in one-on-one conversations for people to talk about mental health. Even leaders with good intentions might not want to bring up the subject because they don’t have the right training or knowledge or because it feels too personal. But these things simply keep a harmful culture of shame going.
The best way to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and create a healthy environment is to regularly remind people, in a matter-of-fact way, of the mental health resources available in your organization or community.
Balance care and accountability
In the end, the workplace only works when we do our jobs. In a time when mental illness is on the rise and stress is at an all-time high, it is very hard for leaders and managers to find a balance between support and compassion and the needs of effective operations. When there’s a lot to do and not enough time or money to do it, the goal can’t be to get rid of all stressors.
It helps to think about this balance in terms of being able to keep going. A healthy workplace gives employees the tools and freedom they need to take care of their mental health while still doing their jobs well over the long term, making way for better stress management.
Providing temporary relief to employees in times of crisis out of compassion is not only kind, but also essential to the health of the organization as a whole. But if crises become the norm instead of the exception, it’s up to leaders to change people’s expectations in an honest and respectful way.
More sustainable ways of working
It’s time for employers to change the way they do business to make it more sustainable. Flexibility is a key part, and many workers experienced it for the first time during the pandemic when they could work from home.
Respondents said that their company’s plans for getting them back to work were bad for their mental health. The policies about working in person or from home (41%) and the lack of work-life balance or flexibility (37%) were given as the top two reasons.
Promoting autonomy, setting limits, and developing norms for communication, responsiveness, and urgency may all contribute to the development of a psychologically healthy culture. For instance, a professional services business could demand lengthy hours to meet a customer deadline while allowing greater flexibility with internal requirements.
Other ideas include not checking email after work hours, focusing on work, and having days with no meetings. Leaders need to act in these and other ways that are beneficial to the mind so that employees feel like they can do the same. It promotes inclusivity for managers and direct subordinates to discuss different working preferences and styles.
Employers must also make sure that teams have all the tools and time they need to do their jobs well and keep their minds healthy.
Last but not least, it’s important to build a culture of connection. This includes asking, “How are you?” at regular check-ins and having strong working relationships, as well as meaningful conversations between teams. Employers should support these continuing, in-depth one-on-one talks between managers and direct reports as well as amongst coworkers, as well as chances for connection throughout the whole firm.
At the management level, the answer to “How are you?” should always be “How can I help?” Empathy and sincerity are very important and should be shown more.
The workplace may be an important setting for activities aimed at enhancing the well-being of adults. Workplace wellness initiatives may identify at-risk employees, link them to treatment, and put supports in place to help workers minimize and manage stress. Employers may cut health care expenditures for both their companies and workers by addressing mental health concerns in the workplace.
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