Bringing up the topic of your mental health at work can feel incredibly taboo. All too often, by the time you choose to bring up mental health concerns, it has become a dire scenario, and it already feels too difficult to function in the workplace. Waiting this long to take action provides little opportunity for change for both the individual’s health or the company’s ability to do something about it.
Since the pandemic began, anxiety, depression, and burnout have been on the rise. This increase has inspired more attention to mental health in all areas of our lives, including the workplace. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted studies on employees’ experiences of the workplace, and two-thirds of their participants said they talked to someone at work in the past year about their mental health; whereas, only 49% stated this was a positive experience.
As a community, we need to be exploring more how we can have a work culture that supports mental health and how to have these tough conversations about our wellness. This blog explores ways to reflect on the impact of our workplace and encourages a cultural shift towards employee wellness.
Impact of a Workplace that Does not Value Mental Health
When there is a stigma or a lack of regard for an employee’s mental wellness, it creates negative outcomes for both the employer and the individuals. This can look like being asked to work more than the regular workweek, being unable or encouraged not to take time off, little flexibility in your responsibilities, or your stress level being unconsidered.
Most workplaces offer support like an Employee Assistance Program or wellness initiatives. Though these are good things, they are not enough if the employer does not look at what is causing stress at work.
According to the Work and Wellbeing Study of 2021, employees who are stressed at work are three times more likely to seek new employment than employees who are less tense. Some factors that contribute to this are discrimination in the workplace, working long hours, lack of involvement in decision making, and low salary. When these stresses go unaddressed and personal lives are dismissed, employees become burned out and question if they want to stay at their place of employment.
Ways to Support Your Mental Health at Work
We have a pretty clear idea of what is not working for the employee’s mental health at work, so let’s look at what can help provide change.
- Connection at Work: With the pandemic, work culture can be even more isolated with socially distancing and working from home. Finding ways to connect to a supervisor or co-workers can help build a sense of belonging and support.
Are you able to discuss your stress level with your supervisor? Is there time to have a brainstorming session with a co-worker?
- Work-Life Balance: This can look like maintaining boundaries so that there is time for you to care for your personal life. Are you able to disconnect from your work email? If something comes up with your children, are you able to leave early to care for them? Are you taking all available PTO offered to care for yourself?
- Growth and Development: If you feel stagnant or chronically bored at work, you may need a new opportunity. Is there a new skill you would like to learn or a training you are interested in? Are there opportunities to grow in your company so that you feel more involved and challenged?
- Mental Health Trainings: Leaders and supervisors trained to understand mental health in the workplace will be more effective at navigating these difficult conversations. It’s important to remember that employees of all levels experience difficulties with stress in one way or another, so this supports the entire team.
Your actions and your employer’s actions are both necessary to create a workplace culture that emphasizes mental health. If you do not feel like you can discuss any changes with your supervisor or even HR, it may be time to seek support outside of work.
Value Your Mental Health
Whether or not your employer is willing to take mental health seriously, it needs to be prioritized by you. Addressing the source of your stress and exploring potential solutions could be life-changing. Taking a mental health day to reflect on your needs to help lower stress can be helpful to know how to move forward.
Pure Health Center is here to support individuals in understanding how work impacts mental health and can aid in creating goals to help place more attention on wellness.