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The Link Between Mental Health and Work

Several work-related scenarios and instances can negatively impact a person's mental health. Some common risk factors include:

  • Overworked staff, excessive workloads, and understaffing

  • Unclear job roles, expectations, or support

  • Poor working conditions

  • Violence, harassment, or intimidation in workplace settings

  • Long shifts without adequate break times

  • Inadequate career development opportunities

  • Poor wages

  • Lack of support from work team/colleagues

Mental Health Symptoms

All the workplace factors mentioned above can cause poor mental health in your employees. However, each person may experience different mental health symptoms in response to these scenarios. Job-related stressors may cause:

  • Anxiety: This mental health condition can present as restlessness, nervousness, excessive worrying, trouble sleeping, and other uncomfortable symptoms. In turn, anxiety can interfere with job performance. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 18% of American adults suffer from this condition. Employees with anxiety may struggle to meet deadlines or interact with their coworkers in team settings.

  • Depression: Experiencing depression can make it difficult to focus on tasks, communicate with a team, and perform regular work tasks. Employees with this condition may have increased absenteeism or avoid social interactions with coworkers. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 5% of adults worldwide struggle with some form of depression.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers can play a significant role in supporting their employees' mental health. Given the risks of poor mental health at work, they can pay close attention to their staff and address these concerns. For example, excessive workloads and understaffing contribute to burnout for many employees. Executive employees can take action to help lessen these factors and create a better workplace.

Employee wellness initiatives can also promote a positive work environment. For example, holding a "mental health awareness" event can show employees you care about their well-being. Managers should attend training sessions that teach them to recognize and observe the signs of mental illness in their employees. Furthermore, training managers to enhance their communication and listening skills can help support positive employee interactions.

Efforts to reduce the stigma around mental illnesses can help create a more comfortable working environment. When employees feel their workplace is safe, they're more likely to be open about workplace stressors contributing to poor mental health. In addition, employers can help support their staff members by teaching them how to manage stress and providing tools to reduce stress (allowing for breaks, mindfulness, etc.).

Fostering a Supportive Environment

While many work-related stressors can result in mental health conditions, other factors may cause staff to experience them as well. Employers can support their employees' mental well-being by remaining flexible and understanding about their struggles. For example, if a member of your team is suffering from a mental health diagnosis, consider the following ways you can help support them:

  • Allow them to flex their work hours. Many mental health conditions can make it difficult to achieve restful sleep. Offering the ability to work from home or nontraditional hours can encourage employees to complete their work when it works best for them. While it may seem insignificant, alternating work hours can significantly reduce stress for some employees.

  • Be patient! If you know a staff member struggles with a mental health condition, exercise patience whenever possible. Support your team by allowing them to take mindful breaks, as needed, throughout the day. You can also assist them by providing information on resources that may help them.

  • Open lines for communication, allowing your staff to be honest with you. Workers may fear calling attention to their mental illness or worry about being fired. By providing a supportive ear, you can let staff know you understand what they're going through. You may need to provide reassurance of their job security as well.

Moving Forward

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental illnesses that result from job stressors. A variety of scenarios can contribute to increased risk for mental illness in the workplace, such as overworked staff, long shifts, poor working conditions, and many other factors.

Employers play an essential role in reducing these factors to support their team's mental health. Providing supportive resources and working to minimize the stigma associated with mental illness can benefit work productivity and the overall health of your employees. Consider how you can take action to support your staff's mental health!


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