Blog

 

19

May

Workplace Health and Safety: Mental Health | Avetta

Author: Avetta Marketing

employee-safety

How Workplace Safety Contributes to Good Mental Health

Your environment plays a large role in how you are able to mentally cope with heavy stress, especially during unsure times such as these. If you are working in a stressful environment, coping in healthy ways is much more difficult to do. The effects can have a huge impact on focus, motivation, and physical safety. 

Dealing with mental illness in the workplace isn’t a common subject, but as an employer, the mental health of your employees falls under the category of workplace health and safety—for which you are responsible. Let’s talk more about this responsibility, why it matters, and how you can contribute more to the workplace health, safety, and mental health of your employees.

Why Your Employees’ Mental Health Matters in the Workplace

Whether your employee's illness is caused by physical stress or psychological stress, it’s illness just the same. Just as having the flu can affect workplace performance, so can anxiety. However, people who struggle with depression, anxiety, or any of the many other psychological struggles out there are often stigmatized and not allowed any recourse. 

Mental illness affects every facet of a person’s life, but since we are talking about workplace safety, we will focus on this one area for the purpose of this article. 

The CDC reports that:

  • 40% of employees report their job is “very or extremely stressful.”

  • 26% of employees report they are “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work.”

  • 29% of employees report they feel “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.”

Since “an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability,” mental health concerns cross every occupation, socioeconomic status, and race. They carry persistent, long-term consequences which no doubt have a link between mental health and productivity in the workplace. To put a dollar amount to it, the World Health Organization states that “depression and anxiety have a significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.” This high cost is due to employees’ inability to perform at an optimal level, a lack of motivation, and increased turnover.  

Unfortunately, many people (51% of those polled) don’t believe the workplace holds any responsibility over the mental health of its employees. This is a shame (and a sham). The status of one’s mental health affects not only themselves, but those they come into contact with, including team members, managers, and customers.


How to Measure Your Employees’ Mental Health

All this simply points to one important question: “How is the mental health of my employees?” There may not be any way to know for sure, but your workplace environment can hold a lot of clues to help you evaluate the risks. 

Workplace Risks

When it comes to risk of high stress, does your workplace:

  • Have an unrelenting workload?

  • Match the competencies of workers to work required?

  • Limit employees’ participation in making decisions?

  • Take control over employees’ personal work areas?

  • Have inflexible work hours and strict personal and/or sick leave policies?

  • Practice poor communication?

  • Set unclear tasks or conflicting objectives?

  • Have unsustainably high standards?

  • Suffer from poor management practices?

  • Punish or criticize for failure?

  • Lack team cohesion?

  • Offer job security or opportunity for advancement?

  • Come off as unpleasant due to overcrowding, loud noise, air pollution, or ergonomic issues?

  • Look, feel, and smell dirty?

  • Carry a high personal safety risk?

  • Turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment? 

  • Offer little support for employees?

  • Have inadequate health and safety policies and procedures in place?

 

”

Signs of Job Stress

While personalities and coping styles/skills are most important in how stress affects an employee, any of the above factors will raise the risk for an employee experiencing ongoing stress, which can cause or exacerbate poor psychological health. 

Here are some signs your employees are struggling from stress on the job:

  • Having trouble concentrating on the task at hand

  • Experiencing a short temper

  • Isolating oneself from team members

  • Suffering from job dissatisfaction

  • Regularly showing up to work late or leaving early

  • Putting in a lot of overtime or frequently working beyond normal work hours

  • Exhibiting low morale

  • Talking about harming themself or others

 

How to Improve Your Employees’ Mental Health

Dealing with mental illness in the workplace should not be solely left up to each employee, but should be a branch of your overall workplace health and safety policies. That’s because the health of your individual employees directly corresponds to the health of your organization as a whole. If you need more convincing, “a recent WHO-led study estimated that for every US$ 1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.” Fortunately, there are quite a few things that organizations can do to recognize, acknowledge, and support employees with their mental health. 

First, go back to the above list of workplace risks and be honest when evaluating where your workplace stands and in what areas it can improve. 

Second, build general awareness across all organizational levels about mental health and how it relates to productivity in the workplace. Secure top management buy-in and enlist the input and involvement of all employees in establishing proper training and putting policies in place to guide procedures. Commit together to solve the problems.

Third, continue to foster a culture of understanding, acceptance, and support. Keep the conversation open and make resources available. This can take effort, compromise, and time. However, it must be done for the good of everyone. 

Here are a few, more specific tips:

  • Recognize the needs and strengths of all employees.

  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance.

  • Deliver mental health interventions.

  • Look to other companies and find out what they have done to promote mental wellness.

 

Conclusion

Remember, as an employer, you are legally bound to uphold the rights of people with disabilities, including those associated with psychosocial disabilities. Everyone has a right to work. Everyone should be treated equally. Everyone should be provided with support in the workplace. It is your responsibility to ensure that your organization is dealing with mental illness in the workplace in a dignified manner.

To learn about how Avetta contributes to health and safety, visit our website, call 844-633-3801, or email blog@avetta.com 

COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS):
How is your organization handling it?

We're taking steps internally to ensure we can support you during this crisis by:

business continuity plan illustration

Maintain a current Business Continuity Plan

sanitized work environment illustration

Promote a safe, clean and sanitized work environment

Work from home illustration

Enable employees to work remotely

Office Distancing illustration

Institute Office Distancing policies

travel restriction illustration

No visitors to the office

travel restriction illustration

Encourage employees to self-educate using online resources (WHO)

travel restriction illustration

Restrict travel—all non-essential travel is forbidden

To learn more, we encourage you to visit our COVID-19 Resource Library.

Visit Resource Center