Dec 13, 2022 13 min read
Watch out and act now: Prioritizing Mental Health at Work
Author is the founder of the “Nectar Factor Foundation". He is experienced in stress management, blissful life skills and has worked on secret combination of Aura + Mind+ Body. He is a motivational speaker & trainer and has over 27 years of work experience in corporate environment that has helped him develop special training programmes for Corporate and Institutions keeping in mind today’s requirement as well as mental health.
Beni Kinha, NectarFactor
Beni Kinha, NectarFactor
When you open the WHO website, you find some weird facts like- ‘15% of working age adults were estimated to have a mental disorder in 2019’. Well, it seemed like that article goes back to Pre-Covid era in 2019. That figure must have certainly increased owing to the large scale loss to human life and global economies resulting in loss of jobs and businesses. No one can contest the fact that COVID19 has heavily contributed for low mental health at workplaces for many.
The Pandemic, Global Geo-Political Crisis, Fears of Inflation, Environmental Concerns, Digital Information Bursts, Societal Pressures of emerging kinds .,etc have been major contributors of depleting Mental Health at Work. So, where are we heading? Well, certainly not towards spirituality or mental equanimity but rather to unfortunate issues like early-age cardiac arrests, heart attacks, blood pressure, diabetes., strokes and what not.
You open whichever browser you like and type keywords like ‘Mental Health’ , ‘Workplace Mental Health’, ‘Dealing with Workplace Stress’ .,etc you’ll come across all sorts of theory on types of stress (I came across some 4-5 different types categorization with at least 3-4 sub-categorizations). One can find enough tools claiming to put you in ZEN mode or maybe achieve NIRVANA. Some may even succeed too given the reputation of few players in this field. But are we missing the big picture here.
Well, I too thought of penning down my observations regarding the Mental Health at Workplace
Gauging your Mental Health (Employees):
Answering to self on questions like: How often you go to your colleagues for a cup of tea-coffee or just a little chit-chat, How often your colleagues come to you to lighten up themselves, Are you perceived as an irritable person at workplace, Are you perceived as a cry-baby, Do you appreciate your colleagues on small things, Do you share your personal issues with your peers or colleagues or even seniors, Do you feel stressed before coming to office.
If you find yourself uncomfortable in above situations, you might be in the right hand side of mental-health continuum. The Workplace Mental Health theme does not have a BLACK or WHITE answer. You can’t be always on extreme ends of this theme. Rather, it is a mental health continuum 1 with mental health (left) and mental illness (right) at extreme ends where one shifts his position across a range as her situation improves or deteriorates2. The idea is to gauge the extremity of your situation.
Acknowledge the various stimuli causing burn-outs:
Feeling of tiredness, longing for weekend at the start of the week, losing temper at your colleagues or finding a lone spot to chain-smoke at work. These situations (not limited to) are classic examples of burn-out at work. When you are already mentally exhausted, your mind doesn’t have a bandwidth to process other job tasks. One needs to identify whether the underlying causes are PERSONAL or PROFESSIONAL.
PERSONAL issues may be ranging from financial insecurities, marital issues, family health or upbringing
issues with kids.
PROFESSIONAL issues may be bullying, harsh behaviour by seniors, inability to mix up with colleagues, fear of lower appraisals, inability to grasp nuances of job role, tight timelines, feeling of meaningless job role.
Acceptance is the key to one’s issues. Without singling out and acknowledging the cause, one cannot move to the left hand side of the mental health continuum. The greatest inventor of many human miseries is not some known personality or character; if one go deeper into inner self we’ll find that it is our mind itself. We create all sorts of imaginary situations in our minds putting us in unpleasant situations and with people whom we find consider unpleasant.
Find ways/Seek Help to address the burn-outs:
There is no panacea to beat the workplace stress and mental tiredness. Whether or not, one is aware of the underlying causes which causes burn-out; it is always better to seek PROFESSIONAL HELP from trained counsellor or therapists. It has always been a societal taboo that seeking professional help in treating mental health issues is something out of the way and usually leads to social neglect of the individual.
Apart from seeking medical/professional help, one can resolve many issues at workplace by properly communicating one’s issues/apprehensions/weaknesses/misunderstandings
Talk to bosses regarding issues related to behaviour, attitude or clarity on job role
Apprise seniors regarding personal issues faced. Some worthy advise may come out of it
Approach your corporate mentor
Approach your trusted friends
Maintaining PHYSICAL HEALTH reduces a lot of stress by reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercising also stimulates production of Endorphin chemicals in the brain which are natural pain killers and mood elevators cites an article by Harvard Health Publishing.
BREATHING exercises or aerobic exercise relaxes your body and builds a lot of stamina in absorbing physical and mental stress over a period of time.
EATING HABITS along with exercising goes a long way in help you keep yourself active, elevated and boost a constant supply of mood elevating hormones. Consulting professional dieticians in this regard is always a better option to suit to individual body type.
Prioritizing your ambitions and aspirations (Personal & Professional):
Many a times people fail to create a balance between their personal aspirations and professional ambitions. It is always fine to say ‘NO’ to your seniors for sometimes putting in that extra oil in your work when you have some pressing personal issues concerning your family. Andreaa Vanacker 3 in one of the Forbes article states Leaders who understand the distinction between ambition and aspiration can reflect on how they are motivating their employees to ensure high retention. If we focus on engaging the “minds” of employees by fuelling their ambitions, we will not be able to truly catalyze their creativity and allow them to reach their full potential. What is more likely to maximize their motivation is when we can engage their “hearts” through a deeper connection around how their individual purpose can be realized through the organization’s purpose.
Gauging the Mental Health of your Workforce (Employer):
When world no. 2 tennis player Naomi Osaka bowed out from French Open last year due to depression and anxiety issues, it sent huge shock waves across the sporting community. This is a classic example when management fails to gauge the mental health of their workforce before they enter a stage of sudden break-down. It is pertinent for the employers to talk more and more about issues of mental health through Town-Halls, Advisories, Health Camps, Engaging Professional Consultant through Webinars., etc.
One such series of workshops was organized by IndianOil was under the theme: Paramarsh - IndianOil's Employee Assistance Programme - Interactive Workshop on Emotional Wellness. When employees attended the webinars under that theme, it was visible how the workforce was talking about similar issues, sharing their concerns with the consult in-person or sharing their views/concerns with their peers/friends at the workplace. These programs instil confidence in workforce that talking about these issues is not a Taboo and let you identify and acknowledge your burn-outs and put you in acceptance mode.
Create a Vigilant Culture (Employer):
You are sitting at your workstation depressed by some personal issues clubbed with management advisory on working extra hours for some project. You are almost at your breaking point when your close colleague senses something and comes to you and asks you to join for a coffee break at canteen.
Leadership in many ways through their regular communications and team building exercises create an environment of more collaboration than competition. When there is collaboration, comes trust and camaraderie, and eventually empathy which is required for the workforce to shift to the left hand side of the mental health continuum.
Communicate upon the theme very often (Employer)
When the Leadership Style changes from Theory X to Theory Y4, then it is imbibed in the company’s culture where managers view their employees as the most valuable asset. Any corporation would make extra efforts to ensure that their human capital is safe, sound and healthy to yield dividends. It is imperative for corporations to communicate upon the theme of Mental Health at regular intervals and take proactive and corrective measures to ensure that people are working with positive energy and vibrancy rather than distress.
Take Care of Your Employees And They Will Take Care of Your Business
~ Richard Branson
1. (Frisch, Cornell, Villanueva, & Retzlaff, 1992)
4. Book: The Human Side of Enterprise by Douglas McGregor
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