Mental Health in the Workplace or Work-related stress is the biggest occupational health problem in the world today, after musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems.
Distress and mental illness interfering with work is a major cause of sickness absence from work, reduced productivity, and staff turnover. Stress is the root cause of a lot of mental ill-health, especially anxiety and depression.
- Mental Health in the Workplace or Work-related stress is estimated to be the biggest occupational health problem all across the world, after musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems.
- Nearly 3 in every 10 employees will have a mental health problem or Mental Health in the Workplace in any one year – the great majority of which will be anxiety and depressive disorders.
- Mental Health in the Workplace or Mental health problems accounts for the loss of over 91 million working days each year.
- Half of all days lost through mental ill-health are due to anxiety and stress conditions which affect your Mental Health in the Workplace.
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I. Mental Health in a Workplace or Health at Work?
Stress is a necessary part of everyday life. Indeed, some degree of stress or pressure is considered healthy. Underemployment can lead to boredom, apathy, and a loss of energy and motivation. But conversely, excessive stress can lead to fatigue, impaired judgment and decision making, exhaustion, and the onset of serious health problems – both mental and physical.
Physically, stress is implicated in the development of coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, and a host of other ailments including stomach ulcers, skin rashes, migraine, asthma, and increased susceptibility to infections.
The psychological effects of stress can be just as damaging. Increased anxiety, irritability, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, and aggressive behavior can increase the risk of accidents and disrupt relationships both at work and at home.
Individuals under stress are often inclined to smoke more, drink more alcohol, and consume excessive amounts of caffeine, thus increasing irritability, sleep impairment, etc., in a vicious circle. Exposure to prolonged stress will increase the risk of serious mental health problems, including depression and disabling anxiety conditions, as well as alcohol misuse.
II. Mental Health in the Workplace: Who is at risk?
Anyone can experience stress from their work, depending on the demands of their job, the conditions in which they work, and their susceptibility, which can be increased by problems outside of the workplace.
In a recent research survey of 270 company line managers, 88% claimed a moderate or high level of stress in their work, which 39% claimed had gotten worse over the past year. Just over three-quarters of those surveyed – 77% – thought stress in the workplace ‘will happen to everybody at some time’. Moreover, 52% said they knew someone who had suffered stress severe enough to stop them from working and require long-term medical treatment.
In a recent research survey of company line managers, just over three-quarters of those surveyed thought stress in the workplace ‘will happen to everybody at some time’.
III. What can give rise to stress at work or to workplace depression?
Work, on the whole, has a beneﬁcial impact on mental health. It gives structure and purpose to the week, opportunities to meet people and make friends, and a means of increasing one’s sense of self-worth and of being valued by others.
In certain circumstances, however, work can cause or contribute to Mental Health problems such as stress and subsequent problems of anxiety and depression. Research has highlighted several work-related factors that can negatively affect well-being.
- Lack of control overwork
- Under-utilisation of skills
- Too high a workload, impossible deadlines
- Too low a workload, no or few challenges
- Low task variety
- High uncertainty e.g. due to poorly deﬁned roles and responsibilities, lack of clear priorities and targets, job insecurity
- Low pay
- Poor working conditions e.g. noise, overcrowding, excessive heat, inadequate breaks
- Low interpersonal support e.g. via inadequate or insensitive management, hostility from colleagues
- Undervalued social position.
No single factor alone is likely to be the cause of someone becoming stressed about Mental Health in the Workplace. Stress tends to build up over some time through a combination of circumstances, some of which may not be related to work at all. Problems in domestic relationships, money worries, even difficulties in traveling to work can contribute to reducing a person’s ability to cope with stress in the workplace.
If sufficient numbers of staff are affected by stress, however, the problem can become a serious organizational one, manifesting as absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased staff turnover, and customer complaints. This becomes a particular risk during times of organizational change, such as restructuring or downsizing, which need to be anticipated and effectively managed if large numbers of staff are not to become disaffected.
If sufficient numbers of staff are affected by stress, the problem can become a serious organizational one, manifesting as absenteeism, reduced productivity, increased staff turnover, and customer complaints.
IV. How to work on your mental health in the workplace?
Any employer who wishes to create a healthy work environment for their staff will need to develop policies and procedures to ensure that their approach is systematic and thorough, and its results are tangible.
A speciﬁc policy relating to mental health at work is advisable. Effective stress prevention and management require tackling the problem at several levels simultaneously.
- Preventing problems by eliminating or minimizing stress at the source
- Minimizing the negative effects of stress via education and management strategies
- Assisting individuals who are experiencing the effects of stress
Also Read: Twenty Steps to Improve Your Mental Health and Take Charge of Your Life