Mental health is of equal importance to physical health when it comes to the workplace environment. We need both to keep us functioning and fully fit and, just as it falls to the employer to ensure that the office environment is a safe place to work, with adequate lighting and ventilation, there is also a responsibility to manage the work and the worker, making sure that they are the right fit.
In fact, the balance between matching candidates to the right jobs and promoting general well-being are key ingredients when it comes to protecting employees’ mental health.
Charitable health organisation, Mental Health Foundation believes that a toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health, while maintaining that having a fulfilling job can be one of the best antidotes. It also decrees that addressing well-being at work can increase productivity by as much as 12 per cent.
Taking each aspect on board, it’s clear that what is most beneficial is a holistic approach, which embraces the tenets of good management while considering what actively improves workers’ well-being, controlling stress levels and making the workplace more mentally healthy for all.
Employees must have good levels of job satisfaction and should also feel comfortable and happy in the environment that they work in in order to secure the optimum state of well-being and to achieve the most productive results.
Having flexibility in the workplace, particularly when it comes to our working hours, can largely be a boon for those who are prone to bouts of poor mental health. Being able to pick your hours alleviates the stress of trying to work around children and other commitments. It also means that you can choose to work in a quieter, more private environment if you are struggling with being around people at any given point.
Mental health charity, Mind flags up one possible disadvantage to flexible working, however, which illustrates that it may not be right for all, noting on its website that such flexibility can be a challenge for those who struggle to create structure for themselves. Some workers operate better with structure in place and prefer to work within certain confines in order to manage their time and their own expectations.
Again, this comes down to management. Part of the responsibility that we hold to our employees is to identify what suits them best and make sure that the role fits them rather than to force them into a role that simply does not suit.
Technology and our recognised ability to now work pretty much from anywhere and at any time has created a situation in which we are never ‘off’. People begin to panic if they can’t access WiFi and there is an increasing pressure, perceived or real, to check work emails even when we are not meant to be working.
This habit of engaging with work when we are not in work can become stressful and create potential burnout situations. The best way to address this is to regularly monitor workloads, keep an open door and encourage regular communication. Employers need to stay alert to the dangers of staff always being ‘on’ and encourage them to make the right choices.
Any activity that can be laid on in the work environment that supports better mental health is a real bonus. Bringing in external providers to educate with mindfulness techniques, positive thinking and yoga are always great for workers to opt in to, as they see fit, as well.
The same goes for counselling and employee support services. Sometimes it’s just about providing an ear in a safe environment, allowing employees to discuss any difficulties or concerns.