C.R Satish Kumar is a Research scholar from Maastricht University, Netherlands. Currently he is practicing as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Manipal hospitals, Bangalore. He completed his MPhil Clinical Psychology from PGIBAMS and holds RCI license. He specializes in child, adolescent and adult psychology. He has more than 8 years of work experience in this domain. He has 15 International publications of research articles based on depression, anxiety and stress and currently working on 2 research projects. His main focus is on E-mental health, Behavioural medicine and positive psychology. He has been working on developing mobile based apps for improving mental health in the past few years.
Workplace stress is a real threat to both the physical and mental well-being of a person and its implications cannot be overlooked anymore. The World Health Organization has recognized the need of promoting awareness on the topic and has defined it as ‘the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.’ If reports are to be believed about 1 in 7 Indians are affected by workplace stress, much higher than the Asia-Pacific average of 1 in 6 employees. It is high time, we as a society realize the importance of the condition and work together in creating a better workplace environment.
“Unhealthy work environment is prevalent in several organizations in India. Such organizations failed to appreciate the value of promoting the mental health of their employees. Because of the poor workplace environment, there is an increase in the rate of attrition, absenteeism, reduced motivation leading to high work pressure, frustration, anxiety, stress, and depression. It is a vicious cycle which needs to be addressed at organizational level.”
Sound mental health is required both at work and home. People with good mental health cope with challenges more effectively than people with poor mental health. There are several advantages of positive mental health. It helps to manage everyday stress, take up new roles and responsibilities, have social and cognitive skills, empathize with other people, controlling emotions, and improve resilience. People with positive mental health use their skills at full potential at work and reach greater heights in career. The effect of poor mental health at the workplace may result in:
- Reduced productivity and performance
- Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion
- Disengagement, mistrust, and absenteeism
- Social isolation and reduced communication
- Poor decision-making
Workplace Practices Impacting Mental Health
Some of the workplace practices that impact the mental health of employees are:
- Organizational culture: A positive culture helps the employees to flourish and work with their full potential. Organizations with the frequent urgent delivery of services or products have employees with poor mental health. It results in mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.
- Job stress: Pressure of performing at all times in their jobs puts undesired stress on the employees. It results in increased workload, physical exhaustion, and reduced mental health. The person may experience insomnia, a high sickness rate, increased risk of accidents, and increased consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- Low psychological support: There is inadequate psychological support from seniors and co-workers. Perception of low psychological support may result in reduced productivity, absenteeism, conflict, and withdrawal behaviours.
- Absence of clear vision: Organizations should make clear expectations from their employees. There should be a clear vision, and the policies to achieve that vision must be communicated to the employees. An instrumental approach by the management and preferring a short-term goal and avoiding long-term picture causes poor mental health in employees.
- Absence of recognition and reward: No reward or recognition to the employees for their achievement reduces the trust of employees in the organization and lowers down their confidence. It results in exhaustion and emotional distress that results in psychological disorder and a high attrition rate.
- Less opportunity for growth and development: Employees have reduced productivity at their workplace if there is a lack of the right opportunities for growth and development. A challenging environment helps the employees growing professionally and financially reduces conflict, distress, and disengagement.
- Reduced employee engagement: If the employees perceive that they have either no or limited role in the decision-making, they feel a sense of distress and helplessness. It results in reduced morale, high attrition, low productivity, and poor mental health.
- Poor work-life balance: Prolonged conflict in work-life balance causes significant mental health disorders. Such employees are at increased risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Work-life stress may cause loss of temper, physical absence and constant fatigue.
- Harassment and discrimination: Workplace harassment, bullying, and violence negatively affect the mental health of the employees. These include verbal abuse, sexual harassment, threats, mobbing, and physical attacks. Discrimination based on colour, ethnicity, and gender also impacts mental health.
- Job insecurity: Job insecurity, especially during the current pandemic, is a significant stressor in employees. This results in a feeling of distrust, low motivation, reduced productivity, and disengagement.
Promoting Mental Health at Workplace
Organizations and higher management personnel should implement policies that prevent mental breakdowns and promote mental health. Some of the measures for enhancing mental health are:
- Creating a healthy working environment: Organizations should develop a conducive environment for employees to improve productivity. There should be an employee assistance program that helps them manage relationship challenges, legal issues, and health problems.
- Employee engagement: Employees should be involved in the decision-making system. Employees should have the right to raise their voices. The communication channels should be in place so that the employees reach the right person when needed.
- Growth and development: Appropriate growth and development opportunities should be given to the employees. Organization promoting skill acquisitions and adequate training increases employee well-being and job satisfaction.
- Rewards and recognition: The employees should be appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. It will increase work engagement, energy, enthusiasm, and pride.
- Training to manage mental stress: The organizations should provide appropriate training to the employees. It will help in managing mental distress. Persistent mental stress may result in mental disorders.
- Unambiguous job specification: Organizations must clear their expectations from the employees. Communication of a clear job description to the employees improves mental health.
- Promote work-life balance: Every organization should stress the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Apart from restricting working hours every day, different wellness programs should be encouraged and practised. For example, serving healthy meals at the cafeteria, promoting healthy sitting posture, screen break, stretching time at regular intervals should be promoted. Taking weekends off from the office work completely should be frowned upon or looked down upon. Spending quality time with family and friends should be encouraged.