In the way that the environment around us has the capacity to improve or affect our health, good work environments affect employees positively and toxic work environments can negatively impact an employee’s mental and physical health.
The impact work has on an employee’s mental health can spin off into other problems as well. Decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, disengagement, burnout etc are some of the most commonly known problems. On the more extreme end of the scale, employees may resort to drug abuse, alcoholism, reckless behavior that not only endangers their own lives but also that of others.
Also read: Everything You Need To Know About Workplace Burnout
It is also important to remember that work is not the cause of stress. Outside factors such as an employee’s personal life, illness etc can all play a big role as well.
Employees spend at least 8 hours a day at work, sometimes more. In light of this, it is important for organizations to take an active interest in employee mental health and create a supportive environment for employees.
Here are some things organizations can do not only to normalize mental health in the workplace but also create a workplace that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone. Mind you, these are surface level initiatives. Once these have been taken care of, organizations will have to go several levels to really create an inclusive workplace.
The first step to solving any problem always begins with awareness. This could be through the form of workshops, seminars, conferences etc held by certified mental health professionals who can help spread awareness about mental health and de-stigmatize the problem.
Creating proactive health policies
Often times, organizations do have health policies but they might be cursory health policies or focus more on physical health. One way organizations can be more inclusive and supportive is to revamp their policies to more broadly cover all aspects of health and wellness. This includes creating provisions for employees with disabilities or employees with mental health problems and adding or offering resources (through the employee assistance programs) that they can utilize to seek help. It is also important that employees be aware of these policies and are encouraged to seek them out when they need to do so. Having a good policy but not being able to use it renders the policy useless and prevents employees from seeking the health and care they need.
Creating a supportive work environment
A supportive work environment is one that practices healthy communication, does not engage in toxic or harmful behavior and does not make employees feel stressed. A distinction has to be made between job-related stressors and environmental stressors. Stress is a part and parcel of any job and employees understand that on certain occasions, they might experience stressful situations. However, when these stressful situations frequently affect their ability to do their job or impact their ability to function, that is when it becomes a problem. Organizations need to be observant of their environment their employees work in and take steps to alleviate stressful situations.
Also read: 6 Creative Workplace Stress-Busters for Employee Productivity
Creating a healthy workplace environment might necessitate organizations completely overhauling their workplace policies to be more inclusive. While this task might seem painful, it will go a long way towards creating a workplace that employees want to be a part of.
Employee wellness initiatives cannot move forward or even function successfully if they do not have the enthusiastic support of leaders and managers at an organization. Leadership participation is vital because this will lend more weight to a mental initiative as well as reassure employees that their wellbeing is important to organizations.
Also read: How To Monitor Mental Health At Your Workplace
Workplace accommodations are not perks, especially in the context of employee health. Rather, they can be considered enhancements or modifications that make a workplace more welcoming to all employees and create a supportive workplace experience. Some workplace accommodations that can create an inclusive environment for employees are flexible working schedules, medical leave policies etc.
When it comes to de-stigmatizing mental health in the workplace, there’s still a long way to go. However, if organizations make a sincere effort to effect change, then it is possible to create a workplace that inclusive and supportive.
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