Written for HBD International by Amy Copley
A person’s mental health affects the way they function, especially in the workplace. For instance, mental health heavily affects employee productivity. Among surveyed working adults in the US, 55% admitted to experiencing mild to moderate stress, which has led them to become unproductive for about 3 hours a day. Burnout can also cause poor quality work and more mistakes, slowing down workflow.
To help counter these issues, below are some strategies that can help you manage different mental health risks in the workplace:
Nearly 79% of employees experience workplace stress, making it the most common mental health risk. Stress born out of conflict within the workplace can lead to headaches, for example, and long hours can lead to insufficient rest.
One management technique encouraged by experts is to observe transparency in the workplace. Encourage employees to bring up their concerns, such as impossible deadlines or uncooperative teammates. This will allow you to make the necessary changes to ensure a positive and productive working environment. If they’re new to the position or project, also grant them sufficient time to adjust to the workflow. Don’t expect big things on Week 1.
Burnout has many causes but the two most common ones are heavy workloads and lack of control. Heavy workloads or unrealistic deadlines leave employees feeling overwhelmed. Autonomy is identified by Daniel Pink as one of three critical elements for motivation, so a lack of control over their schedule or assignments results in a sense of helplessness and quickly erodes employee motivation.
Organizationally, you can help prevent burnout with appropriate leave policies and allowing people to have some flexibility in their schedules or where they work. It can also pay to educate employees about personal strategies to manage their stress and energy by adopting smart health and recovery behaviors such as taking breaks, short walks, exercise, or breathing exercises. If employees are already suffering from burnout, understand that it is a legitimate physical and psychological condition and consider options to reassign them to lighter tasks and projects at least until they recover.
Presenteeism is the act of coming to work despite being ill or distracted, resulting in a less productive day. According to management consultants, presenteeism usually happens when a company has limited or no paid sick days and unrealistic expectations for its employees.
To avoid this, establish and communicate clear policies. Let your workers know the amount of sick leave they have, and what other factors can allow them to be excused from work. You can also avoid presenteeism by setting a good example. If you come to work when you’re sick, they will expect that they need to do the same.
When an employee experiences discrimination, they become less engaged. If a worker feels that a person does not deserve to work due to certain characteristics like gender, it can lead to unfair treatment. An unsafe working environment can also reduce their productivity as they may worry more about their well-being.
The first thing you can do to prevent this is to hire diverse people. When people realize that your culture is one that accepts people no matter their societal or economic background, office jabs can potentially lessen.
Of course, you can’t control everyone’s actions. As such, you need to include policies that allow employees to file formal HR complaints if ever they’re targets of discriminatory acts at work. Workplace discrimination is prohibited and punishable by law, so you can take action by ensuring your workers adhere to that law.
Mental health risks in the workplace affect your business and employees at multiple levels, and as such, a layered approach to managing them by looking at policies, culture, and individual education can help to avoid difficulties and secure your employees’ overall well-being and performance for the short- and long-term.
HBD has a range of proactive programs to help employers manage mental health and performance risks. From specialist executive programs to total population solutions, we help empower employees to better understand and manage their personal health, energy, and performance. Contact us to learn more.