WHO’s New Guidelines to Maintain Mental Health at Workplace
The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) have issued new directions to address the mental health problems faced by employees at the workplace. Over recent years, there has been a growing concern regarding the mental well-being of employees and their needs. Working individuals have a hard time striking a balance between personal life and professional responsibilities. They have to juggle various roles which ultimately deteriorates their mental health and well-being and also has a cascading effect on their job. Suffering from mental health problems affects employees’ overall performance and productivity. Estimates show that about 12 billion workdays are lost owing to employees’ depression or anxiety issues. The WHO’s World Mental Health Report in 2022 highlighted that out of a total of 1 billion people with mental disorders, 15 percent fall in the working-age group. As per the report, work is said to amplify societal issues such as discrimination and inequality that negatively impact the mental health of employees. Apart from these bullying and psychological violence come out as the key reasons for workplace harassment. The newly released guidelines suggest ways to accommodate the needs of workers with mental health conditions and propose interventions, especially for workers in health, humanitarian, and emergency settings. A separate WHO/ILO policy is also elaborative of the WHO guidelines in terms of practical strategic methods for governments, employers, workers, and their organizations. It aims to support the notion of preventing mental health risks, promoting mental health at the workplace, and further lending a helping hand to those workers diagnosed with any mental health concerns. The ideas suggested are in lieu of the fact that people spend a considerable portion of their lives working which in itself explains why creating a safe and healthy work environment is crucial. It is also critical to build a culture of prevention around mental health at work, restructure the work settings to avoid the stigma and exclusion surrounding it, and create an amicable place inclusive of those suffering from mild or major mental health conditions.How work-related factors affect mental health:
The mental health of the employee can be negatively affected due to the following work-related factors:
1) Inadequate health and safety policies: Workplace health and safety policies address the issues relating to day-to-day health concerns, working conditions, workspace, accidents at the workplace, employee grievances, and others. They shall be framed to protect both the employee and the employer. However, workplaces with poor health and safety policies witness low employee trust, productivity, and profitability.
2) Poor communication and management practices: Having a top-down approach at jobs restricts employees from communicating with the top-level management and is purely focused on directing them to the right and expected ways to carry out tasks. It creates pressure and increases stress on lower-level employees due to the constant supervision and lack of recognition from seniors.
3) Lack of appreciation and support: Managers who simply burden lower-level workers with daily tasks without appreciating their efforts or understanding their difficulties fail to keep workers motivated at work.
4) Performance pressure: The unrealistic expectations of employers from their employees lead to an increase in workload, and stress and ultimately can be a reason to employee burnout.
5) Job insecurity: The many uncertainties at a job as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic cause havoc, uneasiness, and anxiety amongst workers.
How employee’s poor mental health affects work:
1) Lack of motivation: Deteriorated mental health of employees leads to lower achievement motivation in the workplace which in turn makes it difficult for workers to concentrate on tasks at hand. They may keep from learning new skills for the job or excelling at the ones already known to them.
2) Low productivity and job performance: A disturbed mental state makes it tough to employ creativity at work and lowers performance. They may find the same job taxing which once they enjoyed.
3) Reduced daily functioning: Suffering from mental health conditions can exert a lot more on you than you can think of. It not only leads to social anxiety and stress but also affects your memory, cognition, and daily functioning too.
4) Unclear communication: When one is in a disturbed frame of mind, they find it difficult to effectively communicate with others. They may misinterpret cues, and actions and even react aggressively.
5) Poor decision-making: People with poor mental health are susceptible to acting impulsively which may land them into taking decisions they may regret later.
Tips to maintain mental health at the workplace:
Identify your issue: Recognizing your triggers at the workplace and catering to your mental health needs by seeking help from coworkers, friends and mental health practitioners is a way to improve overall well-being and productivity.
Self-reflect: Engaging in the habit of journalling allows us to self-evaluate ourselves and makes us aware of our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Socialize: Maintaining workplace relationships are important to ensure sound mental health and job satisfaction. Companies promoting social engagement are known to thrive and grow faster than their competitors.
Do not discuss work beyond the office: It is important to draw a line between work and personal life. One shall avoid bringing up office issues at home to maintain a work-life balance.
Take breaks: Taking mini breaks is a necessity after a long day at work. A few studies also suggest that employees vacationing less than once every two years are at a risk of experiencing depression and chronic stress.