Updated: Mar 26
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy? Well, not sure about dullness, but whether it be Jack, Jill, Jane, or Julie, one thing we are confident about is that all work and no play can wreak havoc on an individual's mental health. Today, numerous studies indicate that workplace stress is a prominent factor that leads to the deterioration of one's mental and emotional wellbeing. For instance, the Mental Health Foundation, United Kingdom, states that approximately 1 out of 7 individuals experience some form of mental health concern because of work-related stress, which often becomes the reason employees drop out of work (Rajgopal, 2010). Moreover, declining mental health effects even trickle down to workplace outcomes such as performance, productivity, and presenteeism and even impact their personal lives and relationships. More recently, the pertinence of employee mental health became even more prominent during Covid19, where employees found themselves working extra hours, often collapsing under blurring boundaries between work and life. This was made exponentially worse by the gendered division of labor, especially for those with caretaking responsibilities where few often found themselves sprinting between WhatsApp pings and doorbell rings. Although Queen, the British rock band, said the show must go on, we know it can't go on for too long unless organizations prioritize employee mental health. It's time to 'ACT NOW'! But how can organizations do it? By keeping the acronym ACT NOW in mind. Come take a look! A - Acknowledge the importance of mental health
Mental health is a universal reality of our existence. Every individual on this earth's face, including you and I, has mental health and can experience periods in our life where we experience poor mental health. In cases where prolonged periods of poor mental health are not met with any intervention, it can translate as a variety of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, among many others. More specifically, in the workplace today, despite alarming numbers of individuals who experience mental health issues owing to workplace factors, more often than not, its importance is shoved under the rug. Therefore, the first step for managers and leaders is to become conscious of mental health in our lives and realize how it plays a central role in how one thinks, feels, and acts. It is important for heads of organizations and departments to acknowledge the work an individual is doing. For instance, Saying something like - ‘you’ve had a hard day and I know this must be tough for you’, can go a long way! C - Change own notions about mental health and wellbeing Across the world, managers and leaders are slowly beginning to realize the importance of mental health in the workplace; however, many organizations may still not value its significance even today. This could either be because of an inherent or implicit bias towards mental health or simply a lack of awareness. It is pertinent for leaders and managers to actively seek knowledge and challenge their notions about mental health and wellbeing. Manager and leaders could: - Introspect and evaluate the beliefs they hold about mental health. - Introspect why they hold them. - Challenge their beliefs and assumptions and replace them with new information. - Actively seek new information. T - Touchbase with employees and listen to what they have to say Many organizations have begun devising policies and are constantly looking for ways to better their employees’ mental health. Although some of these strategies may work for some employees, they may not do justice for all. Even more, organizations may assume that they know what their employees need or what makes them feel good mentally, but a one-size-fits-all rarely seals the deal. There are two ways this issue can be navigated: - Review and seek feedback on whether the new strategies devised are making a difference in people's lives. For instance, an organization may believe that a weekly coffee social with all employees would make employees feel great, but its possible employees may not feel that way in reality. To make this work, it is also necessary for organizations to open communication channels within the organization and make their employees feel psychologically safe to ensure they don’t fear voicing their opinions. - Ask them what they need because every individual has different needs that cater to their wellbeing. It could be half-day on Saturdays for one, and for another, it could be gaining more autonomy in the workplace. Merely assuming that yoga or meditation is the panacea to mental health concerns can seem ignorant and can do more harm than good. N - Note grievances and analyze the situation While allowing employees to talk candidly about what they are feeling can be cathartic for them, no action on the behalf of the organization can be detrimental. Organizations need to make a conscious effort to note every grievance that comes their way and analyze how they can be addressed. Of course, not every suggestion or grievance can be met immediately, but strategically thinking about possible solutions can make employees feel welcomed and wanted. O - Open channels for psychological support within and outside the workplace Psychological support is integral to deal with employee mental health concerns, whether one gains it within the organization or outside the organization. - Within the organization, mental health training such as mental health first aid that teaches employees, managers, and leaders the skills to identify and respond to mental health issues within the workplace can play a significant role in addressing mental health concerns. Essentially, the mental health first aider acts as the first point of contact for an individual who may be experiencing a mental health challenge and provides initial support and guidance to them. - Outside the organization, organizations can provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), which help employees deal with their personal problems and professional issues that negatively impact their job. W - Work towards eradicating stigma Stigma prevents individuals from speaking out and being their authentic selves, making matters worse for them. Many employees still face discrimination and are ostracised because of their mental health condition. It is crucial to raise our voices against the stigma towards mental health in the workplace. Organizations need to actively talk about it and educate themselves and others about what it means to experience a mental health challenge. Experiencing a mental health challenge needs to be normalized, and this can only be done when organizations choose to empower employees than to shame them. 'ACT NOW' to make the world a mentally healthier & productive place to live in.