5 ways to improve mental health in the workplace
It’s no secret that our jobs are a major cause of stress. As recently as 2019, 67 percent of all workers reported feeling greater stress now than they did before the pandemic, 40 percent described their jobs as “highly stressful,” and 25 percent said work was the primary stressor in their lives.
So, what’s got people so stressed? Experts cite a number of factors. For one, inflation has increased alongside workloads, meaning people are doing more work for a smaller paycheck than before. At the same time, a lack of certainty in roles and responsibilities surrounding white-collar workers means employers and employees are equally unsure of what their job descriptions should entail.
If you’re feeling stressed at work, or you’re an employer who’s looking to reduce employee stress at the office, here are five ways to improve mental health in the workplace and contribute to a company culture that, above all, champions greater mental wellbeing.
Remove the taboo
It’s hard to talk about mental health in our personal lives. It’s even harder to talk about it at work. But when employees feel like they can’t discuss their mental wellbeing with their employer, it creates a disconnect that leads to further discontent.
If you’re an employee, talk openly to your HR team about the stressors you’re experiencing. You might feel as though your boss doesn’t care if you’re underwater with work, but by not communicating that there’s an issue at hand, the problem will likely go unaddressed.
For employers, it’s your job to cultivate a workplace culture that promotes discussing mental health, rather than shunning it. Talking about stress, workloads, scheduling, depression and anxiety should be encouraged in an office setting.
Promote physical health
Mental health and physical health are more deeply linked than we think. Research shows that even slight activity, such as walking around the block or going on a short run, can help combat depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
If you’re an employee at a larger organization, make sure to build physical exercise into your routine. Take walks at lunch, go for a hike on the weekends, and try switching up some of your less “active” daily habits — for instance, try biking to work instead of driving.
As an employer, your job is to create a more physical office, too. Introducing exercise program discounts, employee field days, incentive programs and workplace health challenges are great ways to get your workers engaged in their physical health, leading to benefits for the entire office.
Offer mental health programs
Dealing with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions alone can be isolating and hard. That’s why it’s so crucial to take advantage of mental health programs when they’re available.
What does that look like? It might be signing up for therapy sessions provided by your company. It could be using our service to talk one-on-one with a life coach anytime, anywhere through our platform. Or it could be encouraging your HR rep to help you look for mental health programs that work with your schedule. There’s lots of options to consider — the only option you shouldn’t consider is doing this mental health thing alone.
(P.S. — Employers, if you haven’t started investing in auxiliary mental health programs for your workers yet, you’ll want to get on it. Choosing not to invest in mental health resources for employees will only come back to bite you when they leave your organization for an employer that puts worker mental wellbeing front and center.)
Create a flexible work environment
A workplace can have just as great of an impact on workers as the work itself. In addition to creating a great physical space for your employees to get the job done, a flexible work environment that puts employees first can help combat mental health challenges.
Company leaders should look to implement open-door policies, over-communicate about business developments and department changes, clearly define business goals and routinely update internal policies.
If you’re an employee, be sure to use the flexible benefits available to you. Take that extra time off. Ask about hybrid WFH schedule opportunities. See if there are other departments that might better use your talents. And don’t be afraid to make suggestions to HR reps about how your work environment could better serve your mental wellbeing.
Not everyone can function at a high level all day every day. No matter your job description, taking breaks is key to preventing burnout and preserving your mental health in the workplace. Be sure to use your PTO, volunteer days, long weekends and holidays to recharge from stressors and give your brain a break.
Improving mental health in the workplace starts with you
If you’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed at your job, you’re not alone. Many of us are — but it also doesn’t have to be that way. By advocating for your rights as an employee, providing mental health resources as an employer, and engaging in mental health best practices like exercise, journaling and vacations, you can preserve your mental wellbeing while also succeeding at your job.
Need more advice on how to handle workplace stressors? We’ve got you covered.
We are a coaching company with expertise in lots of different areas like mental wellness, career, relationships, parenting and a whole lot more. While coaching in The Journal That Talks Back™ can help you to take a deeper look at the above topics, we recognize that there are times when other resources, like therapy and/or counselling, may make more sense. As such, we have begun to develop a Mental Health Directory with well over 800 resources and we are investing time and effort into really growing it. It is also developed in a super user friendly way (we hope) so that it's easier to navigate than say another government website. Click the button below to check out our Mental Health Directory.