We spend most of our waking lives at work, so it’s no surprise that our jobs can have a great impact on our mental wellbeing.
Dealing with mental health issues within a company is not an easy task, but something that organisations need to tackle and learn how to deal with in a professional and appropriate manner. Workplaces are a vital and crucial environment to promote positive mental health.
Mental health is of paramount importance in the workplace for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, a healthy mental state allows employees to function at their best potential, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Workers with good mental health can think clearly, make thoughtful decisions, and contribute innovative ideas, thereby driving business growth and success. Secondly, a focus on mental health contributes to a positive workplace culture, which can boost morale and cohesion among staff.
This focus can help reduce instances of conflict, absenteeism, and turnover, leading to a more stable, engaged workforce. Furthermore, when employees feel that their mental well-being is prioritized, they are likely to develop greater loyalty towards their organization.
How COVID-19 Affected Mental Health
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has raised several concerns regarding its mental health effect on employee’s, especially those who continue to work remotely. According to a survey carried out by mental health provide Ginger (2020), nearly 7 in 10 employees indicated that the coronavirus disease 2019 ( COVID-19) pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career, which has aligned with stark increases in new prescriptions of antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia medications.
The survey conducted by Ginger (2020), also states “that employers need to make mental health support a critical aspect of that plan, or risk a dramatic impact on employee health and productivity”.
As we all go through this unsettling and stressful time, how do employers know that they are supporting their employees who are working remotely? How can we notice if a colleague is not being themselves if we are not seeing them in the office everyday? It is much harder to monitor team members who are working from home as the visual indications are clearly not as noticeable when you’re not working in the same office. The most effective way you can support colleagues working remotely, is by offering them peer-to-peer network support. This can be done through, managers, resources and support from their colleagues.
Supporting the mental health of remote workers
Leaders and managers
They can help stop the stigma around mental health by undergoing training designed to them of the concepts involved and how to communicate them to their team and the organisation. Consider following in the footsteps of Deloitte UK, who launched the “This is Me” campaign, through which six senior members of staff spoke out about their struggles with mental health. They stated that “when managers are more vocal on these topics, acceptance of mental wellness becomes ingrained in company culture and other employees can step forward ” (Fowmedia.com, 2020)
Keeping tabs on the mental wellbeing of remote employees is not an easy task for employers. Another way organisations can ensure they are supporting remote workers is by sending out anonymous employee surveys, targeting questions to assess levels of stress and anxiety within the organisation. The results from these surveys can predict if burnout is approaching or can also prevent bouts of depression.
Peer to Peer Support
By providing peer to peer network support within your organisation, you are creating an environment in which the individual feels comfortable to discuss any issues they may be having, whether it be in or outside the workplace. According to a study carried out by Slam Recovery College “In addition, employment as a peer support worker brings benefits for the peer support workers themselves in every reported evaluation. The experience of valued work in a supported context, permission to disclose mental health problems, which are positively valued, all add to self-esteem, confidence and personal recovery.
Experience of peer support working also increases chances of further employment, personal development and achievement of life goals” ( Slamrecoverycollege.co.uk, 2010) It is important to understand that different individuals may be more or less engaged with different types of peer to peer networks and communication preferences will also differ depending on the individual. For example, a face to face conversation over coffee may be one employees preferred method of communication whereas another individual may prefer to communicate via a messaging tool such as Slack. It is therefore important to ensure that different communication platforms are in place to account for these differences so that conversations around mental health can happen effectively.
Similarly, research has shown that there are gender differences in communication within the workplace. For example, research has shown that men can communicate in an overly blunt and direct manner which may result in employees feeling reluctant to confide in male peers. Whereas females are known to be more empathetic in their communication styles. These differences mean that its very important to educate employees on how to empathetically communicate with their peers around the topic of mental health.
According to WHO, “One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives”. Effective training is required in workplaces to support and provide mental health services.
How Remote Work Affects Mental Health
Remote work can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health, depending on various factors like individual personality traits, work environment, and the support provided by employers.
On the positive side, remote work can lead to greater flexibility, allowing individuals to create a more balanced and personalized work-life integration. The elimination of commute time can reduce stress, and the ability to work in a preferred environment may increase job satisfaction and productivity. However, remote work can also present significant challenges to mental health:
- Isolation and Loneliness: Without regular face-to-face interaction with colleagues, remote workers may feel socially isolated or lonely, which can negatively impact their mental health.
- Blurred Boundaries: Without a clear separation between work and personal life, remote workers can struggle to ‘switch off,’ potentially leading to overwork and burnout.
- Distractions: At home, workers may face numerous distractions that can increase stress and decrease productivity, from household chores to the needs of family members.
- Lack of Physical Activity: Remote work often means less movement throughout the day, which can impact physical health, which is strongly tied to mental health.
- Anxiety and Stress: The lack of direct supervision can cause anxiety for some, and the pressure to be available outside typical working hours can lead to increased stress.
- Employers can mitigate these potential negative effects by providing clear communication, reasonable expectations for availability, support for setting boundaries between work and personal life, opportunities for virtual social interaction, and resources for mental health support.
Mental Health Training
One of the most beneficial support for mental health that any organisation can provide to their employees is Mental Health training. This training session is specifically designed to build awareness of workplace mental health and to equip attendees with knowledge on this topic.
We provide the tools to support an individual during a mental health crisis or during the development of a mental health illness. Mental Health Workplace Champion training will equip you with knowledge of a range of mental health illnesses, enabling the recognition of common signs and symptoms and an understanding of the general treatment for each.
*This is not medical advice, please contact a medical professional if you think you need to seek further help.