The COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social justice movements have converged in recent years to highlight the crucial role of mental health in the workplace.
While mental health has often been an afterthought for employers, a growing body of research demonstrates that psychological well-being profoundly impacts worker performance, organizational culture, and companies’ bottom lines.
For instance, poor mental health accounts for over half of all work-related illnesses in the UK alone.
Now more than ever, supporting employee mental health through dedicated programs, resources, and a culture of openness and vulnerability has become both a moral and business imperative.
Before implementing changes, leaders must understand the scope and interrelated nature of mental health challenges faced by the modern workforce.
Mental Health in the Workplace: Common Challenges
Mental health in the workplace is no longer confined to working hours. The mental health of employees is now a crucial aspect of their lives, extending beyond working hours.
An individual’s work achievements are tied to their identity and sense of dignity. Lack of pride in one’s professional role can negatively impact mental well-being.
This connects to research showing that poor mental health accounts for over half of all work-related illnesses.
Specifically, around 51% of long-term sick leave is due to stress, depression, or anxiety (MHFA).
With 1 in 6.8 employees experiencing mental health problems at work, this issue affects 14.7% of the workforce (Mental Health UK).
The shift to remote work has also disrupted traditional workplace dynamics, challenging social interactions and support structures.
A study found that 70% of managers cited barriers within their organizations to supporting staff wellbeing, including company policy, heavy workloads, culture issues, and lack of skills (MHFA).
Against this backdrop, psychological safety is crucial, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Promoting Workplace Mental Health
To promote psychological safety, managers should adopt a more personal approach – getting to know staff, helping them identify aspirations, and providing regular check-ins and communication about tasks.
Mental health in the workplace is a topic that will continue to gain momentum in the upcoming years as employee mental health programs continue to gain traction for the development of a well-being ecosystem for everyone.
Research aligns with this, showing that 70% of managers feel unable to properly manage workplace stress and pressure (MHFA).
Additional recommendations from mental health experts include acknowledging limited in-person interactions, considering hybrid models (Mental Health UK), and prioritizing psychological safety, meaningful interactions, and mental health resources (MHFA).
With “the great resignation” demonstrating many employees face struggles with workplace connections and identity, employers should heed this advice.
By taking a more inclusive and personalized approach to leadership and implementing employee mental health programs, they can foster mental health awareness in the workplace and mentally healthy cultures benefitting both staff and organizational resilience.
Also read our previous blog on Careers in Instructional Design: An underrated opportunity?
Thank you for reading!