Promoting a Mentally Healthy Workforce December 22nd, 2010, by Ken Buckley

It’s certainly true that for most employees, having a career and a job to go is actually very conducive to good mental health. Work not only provides a stable income but also gives us opportunities to build social relationships and challenge ourselves, increasing self-esteem and our sense of being valued by others.

Sometimes though mental and physical commitments at work can become overwhelming, causing stress and in more serious cases anxiety and depression.

Of course a certain degree of work related pressure is normal and for many people preferable to a job where they feel unchallenged and bored. However excess levels of stress, anxiety and depression not only harm employees but can also lead to significant organisational costs due to reduced productivity, increased absence, poor customer relations, increased staff turnover and the onset of other stress related illnesses.

This is why investing in a mentally healthy workforce through your corporate health program can empower your staff to manage their own stress and increase profitability at the same time.

The Connection between Workplace Stress and Physical and Mental Health

Stress and a lack of mental resilience in the workplace can lead to a range of both physical and mental health problems. Psychologically, stress can cause difficulty sleeping, increased irritability and aggression, lack of concentration and serious mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Physically, stress can be equally if not more damaging and has been linked to the development of many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, migraines, respiratory problems and certain forms of cancer.

Indicators that an employee may be suffering from daily stress include regular absence, reduced work performance, increased alcohol and tobacco use, frequent headaches, chronic tiredness and irritability. Organisational indicators that stress may be out of control in the workplace include increased customer complaints, increased staff turnover, early retirement and internal disputes amongst staff.

Developing a Mentally Healthy and Supportive Workplace

To create a mentally healthy workforce companies should work on building a supportive environment where employees feel valued and able to express any difficulties they may be having balancing their workloads.

Skills and resources to help them manage their time and address challenges positively should be made available through initiatives such as life coaching sessions, and organisational work-life balance policies such as flexible working hours and job sharing should be put into practice where necessary.

Physical changes to the work environment such as crèche facilities, a quiet relaxation room or a corporate gym where staff can take stress busting breaks can also make huge improvements to mental health, as can broader physical activity initiatives that will help employees to cope better with pressures at work.

By improving the overall wellbeing of employees, it’s possible to create a mentally healthy workplace where staff is happier and more resilient, and organisational productivity thrives.

For more information on Mentally Healthy Workforce, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888 ) and be sure to quote: “post909” for eligibility of Healthworks latest online offers and Corporate Health initiatives.

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