How Does Your Mental Health Influence Your Performance At Work?AUTHOR: Kevin Agius
As mental health is increasingly receiving the awareness that it rightly deserves, workplaces are also slowly starting to adapt their environments and values in order to effectively be able to manage and offer the appropriate support that anybody might require. Being the place where most people spend the majority of their time, a workplace environment can have a major impact on our mental wellbeing.
On the same note, a negative mental state will also, in turn, adversely affect the workplace; if left untreated, mental health problems could potentially get out of hand, and as a result, manifest into matters such as absenteeism, burnout, and decreased productivity.
Due to the repercussions that they could potentially have on both the employee as well as the company itself, being able to understand, identify, treat, and prevent mental health issues in the workplace has nowadays become vital.
How should we understand mental health?
As scientifically defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, (NIMH) the term Mental Health refers to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, which should be given as much importance as all the other aspects of our bodies.
One of the main issues with identifying and treating mental health problems, however, is the fact that unlike other physical concerns that present obvious symptoms, periods of poor mental health do not always portray physical and clear manifestations. Positive mental health allows one to cope with various life situations, engage fully in relationships, and recognize potential in oneself and others. A natural ebb and flow of emotions is perfectly healthy, which is why it can be difficult to identify when a pattern of mental distress crosses the line and becomes a “problem.”
Some statistics published by the same institution claim that to some degree, every one of us could potentially develop some kind of a mental health problem, irrespective of age and gender — to give this information a bit more of a numerical outlook, an estimate of around 9.8 million Americans experienced a serious mental health issue back in 2015; that adds up to a massive 4.8% of all adults!
How Can You Identify Mental Health Problems In The Workplace?
In many cases, identifying a case of mental health problems such as anxiety or depression is even more difficult if you are the one who is suffering. With this in mind, it should therefore be remembered that by being able to recognize potential mental health issues in others, helping them, or at least even encouraging them to seek help can result in a considerable impact on the person as well as the workplace environment itself. In order to be able to better identify mental health issues at the workplace, one should keep an eye open and look out for potential manifestations such as uncharacteristic fatigue, regular (and extensive) mistakes, isolation, procrastination, and even chaotic behaviour.
As outlined by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employees in the following areas:
- Job performance and productivity
- Engagement with one’s work
- Communication with coworkers
- Physical capability and daily functioning
- Social avoidance
It’s therefore necessary to educate all employees about the realities of mental health problems, the best ways to identify them, and solutions for treating existing conditions and preventing them where possible.
What Actions Should The Workplace Take?
Due to its unfortunate taboo nature, being able to identify, treat, or even discuss topics relating to mental health problems is becoming even harder than it ever was before. Unfortunately, as a result, people are starting to avoid speaking up whenever they feel down, in fear of being judged, discriminated against, or even forced to take time off of work. One of the most common triggers of mental health problems nowadays is actually a person’s colleagues and stress of work environments, which only continues to increase their reluctance to seek help and regretfully, exacerbates the cause of the problem itself.
With this in mind, it is therefore essential to educate all employees and managers about the reality of mental health problems, in order to ensure more favourable ways of identifying them, and consequently, find solutions for treating existing conditions and preventing them where possible.
Educate Employees and Managers
Knowing how to identify mental health disorders and what action to take requires practical training and education on health issues. It is particularly important for managers to receive this training so they have the confidence to address mental health disorders within their team. Training management in mental health disorders can result in a lowered rate of absenteeism through early intervention, talent retention, protection against mental health discrimination, and the creation of a healthy, happy workforce.
While there is specific training for addressing mental health issues in the workplace, other more general courses can help employees who are either suffering from mental health issues or who want to be more sensitive to their colleagues.
For example, mindfulness courses that promote concentration, creativity, wellbeing, and resilience can also reduce anxiety and stress in the workplace. Similarly, courses to help employees support their colleagues suffering from mental health issues also exist. Conflict management training helps maintain positive interactions within a team, while communications courses can help employees communicate their concerns or issues related to mental health.
Besides education and training, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlined several ways on how a workplace can efficiently and successfully cope with mental health problems amongst employees.
- Ensure a Supportive Culture of Understanding
- Self-Assessment Tools for Employees
- Regular Clinical Screenings from Qualified Professionals
- Comprehensive Health Insurance
- Counselling Facilities
- Seminars and Workshops
- ‘Relaxation Rooms’
Create a culture of understanding and support
Encouraging employees to openly talk about their feelings without any fear of being judged, whether with a trusted colleague or in one-on-one meetings with a manager, turns the vocalization of mental health from a taboo into a goal! This will result in the employee feeling listened to and understood, making the work environment become a place that could potentially help support and combat the ill-effects of mental health problems. All big movements have to start somewhere; a simple “how are you feeling today?” can have a greater impact than you know, which in turn can end up establishing a solid and healthy channel for communication.
What is also important to note is that in order to be able to care for others, one must begin with taking care of themselves. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or downcast, for whatever reason, then it is essential to take it easy and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. Participating in a fun activity, chatting with friends or family, or simply taking a mental health off-day are various ways you could adopt to pamper your mind and have a healthier outlook on life.