Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.
The environment where we work is a critical part of our mental wellbeing.
We can spend up to a third of our day or more at work and work can facilitate our journey to realising our potential, to be productive members of a team and to make a meaningful contribution to an organisation or a cause.
How can workplaces promote mental wellbeing?
Work gives structure to our lives, this includes work within our homes and outside of the home. Work gives us financial security and allows us to access resources we need for life and wellbeing.
Work can allow us to participate in purposeful and meaningful activities within our families and our community.
Having meaningful work to do is a significant part of maintaining mental wellbeing. The Japanese concept of ‘Ikigai’ suggests our work is most fulfilling if it involves us doing work that we are passionate about, work that we are competent at, work we can earn a living from and work we feel is meaningful and work that helps others in some way.
Work gives us a sense of personal worth and value.
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It forms part of our identity. We often define ourselves and introduce ourselves by what we do.
How can workplaces be harmful to our mental wellbeing?
Work environments however can be a source of stress that can affect physical and mental health. Workplaces that can be harmful to our mental health may have some of the following characteristics:
- High demand for results from workers but with little control over the work environment
- Work environments where expectations are ambiguous expectations
- Disrespectful and uncivil environments
- Work where one’s personality doesn’t fit the type of work one does (poor psychological ‘fit’)
- Work where there is limited opportunity to grow and develop as an individual
- Work where there is little or no recognition or reward
- Being overworked or not having enough work to do
- Poor connectedness to the work being done
- Poor work life balance and constantly having to choose work over family
- Work where one is exposed to bullying; harassment, unplanned or unnecessary changes and job insecurity
- Work where there is little or no psychological support or response to psychological distress
Work-related stress can result in burnout and exhaustion, depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
How can my mental state impact the workplace?
Globally, 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder.
Poor mental health can result in poor concentration, poor decision making, poor reaction times, increased risk of errors or accidents, poor quality of work or inconsistency, poor relations with co-workers and poor customer relations.
It has been found that more people are absent from work due to stress and anxiety than physical illness or injury.
More days of work are lost due to mental illness than from other chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis or asthma.
Mental health problems result in lost days of work ultimately costing families, communities and organisations financially.
Common mental health problems particularly depression can also result in presentism (reduced productivity while at work).
The financial impact of presentism on an organization can be difficult to quantify but it is estimated that US$1 trillion worldwide is lost in productivity due to mental ill health and a significant proportion of these costs being due to ‘presenteeism’.
What can we do as a society and as a nation to support workplace mental wellbeing?
- Increase awareness about mental health issues to decrease stigma through access to educational material on mental health as well as regular workshops or training seminars on mental wellness
- Encourage open, fair organizational policies that provide opportunities for meaningful work with adequate reward, opportunities for team members to grow, promoting healthy work life balance and protection from work related psychological distress.
- Develop frameworks for workplaces to be opportunities for screening for and early detection of mental health challenges and structures for integrated psychological support.
- Invest in workplace mental wellbeing for the sake of both the team members and the organization.
If you think that you or someone you know may be struggling with a work related mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.
* Dr. Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback: Whatsapp: +263714987729