Does your company have high turnover rates every month? Do you notice that your employees and coworkers seem less motivated, inspired, and satisfied in their jobs? Do you see increased bickering between employees or small oversights that add up over time? It may be time to assess the overall mental health in the workplace.
Mental health encompasses a person’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It becomes an area for concern when a person develops a noticeable change in their thinking, emotion, or behavior that persists for a time.
You might think your employees are doing well because they look “okay.” However, mental health issues are often very well hidden beneath the surface and are not as uncommon as you might think.
But why are mental health issues common in the workplace?
We live in a world of constant stress.
Workplace stress plays a huge factor in the development of mental health issues. 85% of the 2021 American Association Workplace Wellness study respondents indicated that their work is one of their top stressors.
Additionally, many employees are juggling a myriad of other stressors when they go home. For most working adults, stress is a constant companion.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 60% of the world’s population is in the workforce. In 2019, approximately 15% of working adults had a mental disorder. The numbers are only expected to rise in the aftermath of the pandemic, which—there is no disputing—was an exceedingly stressful event for almost everyone.
Some jobs are more stressful than others. According to Business News Daily, enlisted military personnel, firefighters, pilots, police officers, and newscasters are among the most stressful careers in 2023.
However, even the least stressful jobs still cause mental strain and fatigue when coupled with the pressures of day-to-day living.
If stress is the cause, the solution must be to eliminate all stresses, right?
Well—yes and no.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA), it is impossible to remove all anxieties because stress is an inevitable part of daily life. All people experience stress to varying degrees.
Furthermore, research shows that not all kinds of stress are bad for the mind and body. According to a study published in Psychiatry Research (University of Georgia, 2022), low to moderate stress levels can help develop resilience and cope with future stressful encounters, which reduces the risk of developing mental health disorders.
Because stress is inevitable and, in some cases, beneficial, the best way to go about life is to manage stress levels to a happy medium. You can manage stress in many ways.
When working with clients, my job is to help you find the best ways to navigate stress healthily in ways specific to your team and their circumstances.
So what happens when a person cannot cope with the stresses at their work?
They may develop poor mental performance, which may lead to the following most common mental health issues:
Like stress, anxiety is a normal body response and can sometimes be beneficial. Mild anxiety keeps you alert to any possible danger and helps you pay attention.
However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it may lead to anxiety disorders.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder and will affect almost 30% of all adults at least once during their lifetime.
Anxiety disorders have several types. These include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia disorder, and separation anxiety disorder. These disorders have specific signs and symptoms but are mostly manageable with behavior modification and medications.
However, one thing you should look out for is panic or anxiety attacks.
A panic attack, or an anxiety attack, is an episode of intense feeling of fear that happens without warning. These episodes can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. In more extreme cases, panic attacks can come with physical symptoms, such as:
Many things can cause panic attacks. Some can result from specific phobias; for example, an employee with an extreme fear of spiders encounters one in the office stockroom.
Panic attacks can also come from being put into stressful social situations. For example, an employee with an intense fear of speaking in public is tasked to present in front of top-level managers.
Anxiety disorders have a great impact on the workplace. Employees with an anxiety disorder may make excuses to get out of important social functions, turn down opportunities that involve public speaking or traveling, and find it challenging to meet deadlines.
Therefore, it is important that you get to know your employees. You must show them that talking about and caring for their mental health is important—and never taboo. Knowing about everyone’s anxieties will help prevent panic or anxiety attacks.
Depression is a complex medical condition that involves drastic changes in mood, behavior, or thinking. Many factors can cause depression—not just excessive work-related stress. In most cases, employees with depression struggle with work-related stress coupled with anxieties or traumas from their personal lives.
Depression is particularly difficult to manage because it is easy to miss its signs. Some of the signs and symptoms of work depression include:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9.5% or at least 18.8 million working adults suffer from depressive disorders yearly. In three months, workers with depression miss 4.8 workdays on average and suffer productivity loss equal to 11.5 days.
Depression at work is a major cause of productivity loss, absenteeism, and presenteeism.
Burnout, or “burn-out,” as stylized by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a syndrome classified as an occupational phenomenon. It’s not diagnosable as a mental health disorder but carries considerable symptoms that affect performance. This is a collection of factors that influence a person’s health status enough to warrant contact with health services.
According to WHO, burnout results from unmanaged or unchecked chronic workplace stress. It is identifiable by its three concurring symptoms:
As with anxiety and depression, burnout can disrupt work and cause productivity loss, absenteeism, and a high turnover rate.
If these mental health issues are common and workplace stress is inevitable, how can you help your coworkers and employees?
Three things: you need to promote, protect, and prevent.
Employers can help to mitigate many of these disruptive symptoms by helping to promote mental health awareness.
When the workplace is a safe space where everyone can discuss mental health openly, employers can hear the potential needs and solutions from innovative employees. Providing training to highlight the unique needs of your employees becomes easier when your employees feel comfortable stating their unique stressors.
Leaders can also strive to become the mental health advocates team members can follow. Ensuring that leadership is modeling healthy behavior and that leaders have the appropriate skills to communicate and lead effectively is an excellent way to promote and prevent stress management from the top down.
Protecting mental health in the workplace can be a group effort; in the most effective workplaces, everyone works together to be everyone else’s safeguard.
The common path of encouraging employees to ask for help carries a significant blind spot; those who are struggling often do not want to burden others with their concerns or fear that asking for help could detrimentally affect their standing in their workplace. Instead of asking employees to carry that burden alone, educate employees and supervisors alike on the symptoms of mental distress, and ask the team to look out for one another.
Lastly, and most importantly, implementing stress-educating training or workshops for your employees helps create awareness and tools and systems to navigate daily stress healthily. Encouraging a workplace culture that promotes leisure activities, relaxation and downtime, and team building and connection-inducing activities will greatly improve the overall mental well-being of any team.
This is a lot of potential and overwhelming change to consider for anyone. That is why bringing in a professional to help you to most easily implement the changes that matter and will truly shift your workplace is so crucial. Fill out the contact form below if you are interested in how I can help shift your team for the better.