It has been estimated worldwide that 264 million people suffer from depression and anxiety symptoms, which lead to incapacity. A recent WHO-led study estimates that the global economy lost its productivity up to US$ 1 trillion per annum at the cost of depression and anxiety disorders in individuals. Workplace environment plays a crucial role in in-person performance in an organization. Not only does it determine the mental and physical wellbeing of the employee but overall productivity and performance of the organization. Rapid economic change is one of the most critical dimensions of today’s world. Backstage of this world economic globalization professional environment is requiring increasing workload, job insecurity, increasing stress, and other mental disorders. An abusive working environment may lead to physical and psychological health problems.
If the rhythm of change exceeds the production capacity of the workers to cope, adverse stress reactions can occur, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Also, the professional consequences like job dissatisfaction, decreased organizational commitment, reduced job performance, and absenteeism. Adverse stress reactions are not limited to the individual worker, but also may affect the worker’s family, and social circle. More attention is required to the psychosocial impact of both the psychosocial work and the physical work environment. Workplaces that promote psychological wellbeing and help their employers are more likely to reduce absenteeism, give rise in productivity, and benefit from associated economic gains.
Work-related risk factors
Several risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment are lack of communication with co-workers, physical capability and daily functioning, work-related disturbances, individual skills, and abilities, along with overall governance and environment of the organization. For example, if a person is highly competent and active but the organization is offering a lack of resources those are essential for his work so it draws on as a non-supportive organizational attitude.
Some risks may also be related to job types, such as inappropriate tasks for the person’s competencies and irrelevant workload. A few jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others which can have a negative influence on mental health and may cause a sort of mental disorder. Such threats could be outnumbered in cases like lack of teamwork or social support. One of the most common work-related stress that serves as risks to the health of workers recently reported is bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”), and relate to both mental and physical issues. These problems could result in reduced productivity and slight staff turnover, and consequently have a negative impact on their family life and social interactions.
All these situations led to anxiety and depression, resulting in a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks, about 20% of the time, and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time. Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of those who say severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms. According to reports, common mental sickness like anxiety and depression are affecting more than 350 million people around the globe. Although their symptoms consider as a part of the predictable range of emotional experience, clinicians recognize them as ailments when the symptoms intensify and persist over time.
In fact, when symptoms like mood swings, loss of pleasure or interest in life, poor concentration, agitation, disrupted sleep or insomnia and disturbed appetite lasts for more than two weeks, a worker commonly diagnoses as major depression. Although, At its worst, major depression is disabling and give rise in the risk of suicide, mild and moderate depressions are also contribute to personal suffering as well as lousy performance. Even without a diagnosis of severe emotional distress are all symptoms that lead to worse work outcomes for men and women, with fatigue severely and explicitly affecting women. Anxiety disorders which are discrete from depression encompass severe and persistent symptoms of anxiety that cause distress and interfere with daily activities. As a whole, these are the most common mental disorders and involve conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia. An organization’s policy aimed at enabling people suffering from mental illnesses to remain in the workplace and providing more opportunities for sustained health care services and jobs.
Benefits of a mentally healthy work environment
Organizations with positive work environments actively support the mental health of employees, leading to higher productivity, creativity, and satisfaction. This is the responsibility of every organization to provide a healthy, respectful, and sound environment to their employees with mental issues either when they are at work or return to a job after getting proper treatment. Mental stability and satisfaction not only improve the individual capacity to perform in a better way but also ultimately provide economic benefits to the organization. Research indicates that unemployment, particularly long term unemployment, lousy attitude from supervisors, and stress of work, can have a detrimental impact on mental health. A key element of achieving a healthy workplace is the formation of governmental legislations or rules, strategies. It’s policies, as mentioned by the European Union Compass work regarding mental health issues. A healthy working environment is one where all the workers working in any domain actively and effectively promote the working environment and protecting the health, security, and wellbeing of all employees.
Article 27 of The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) offers an officially binding global framework to promote and secure the rights of people with disabilities, notably including psychosocial disabilities. It develops that individuals with any form of psychosocial disability have the right to work, without any discrimination against should be treated equally and justly. They need to be provided with support in the workplace.
WHO response to mental health
On an international level, WHO’s Global Plan of Action on Worker’s Health (2008-2017) and Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2030) sketch out essential principles, goals, and objectives to promote good mental health at the workplace. It also highlights the implementation strategies for an individual to support their mental health issues in their working domain. These strategies include: Listing down the social determinants of mental health, such as living standards, working conditions, activities for prevention, and promotion of psychosocial health. It also includes the development of health care services by improving access to evidence-based health care and reducing stigmatization and discrimination among individuals at the workplace. These all involve cost and benefits research on strategies to improve mental health points towards the net benefits of the organization. For example, a recent WHO based study estimated that for every US$ 1 invested in the treatment of common mental health disorders, it resulted in the return of US$ 4 in improved health and productivity.
Occupational health or wellbeing is a specialist branch of medicine that primarily focuses on the physical and mental health of employees in the workplace.
Its aim is to prevent work-related illness and injury by:
- Heartening safe working practices.
- Working on ergonomics (studying how you work and how you could work better).
- Observing the health of the workforce.
- Aiding the management of sickness absence.
- To ensure health and safety compliance work with your employer to implement policies.
- For evaluation of mental health, conduct pre-employment health assessments of the individual.
- Conduct health care promotion and education programs at the workplace.
- Offer advice and counseling to employees around non-health-related problems.
- Anticipate your employer with suggestions, ideas, and guidance around making sensible, settling in the working environment.
A road towards occupational wellbeing
Occupational wellbeing provision depends on the size of the organization. It can be conveniently provided by a nurse with professional health training. However, a range of specialists are most suitable and professionals for this purpose, including physiotherapists, hygienists, psychologists, ergonomic experts, occupational therapists, and specialist doctors. Occupational health is systematically provided at an employee’s workplace. Still, if the employer does not have a dedicated or regular job, they may need to travel to attend appointments with external providers.
A guide from the World Economic Forum highlights a few steps for organizational support in employers wellbeing
- Knowledge and awareness regarding workplace environment and how it can be customized to promote better mental health for different employees.
- Understanding and considering the opportunities and needs of individual employees will help in developing better policies for workplace mental health.
- Awareness and excess of sources of support and where employers can find help.
- Application and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, including identification of distress or disturbances, determining harmful use of psychoactive substances, diseases, and providing resources and guidance to manage them.
- Notifying personnel that the aid is available.
- Building the confidence of the employees by involving them in decision-making, giving them a feeling of control and participation, and organizational practices that encourage healthy work-life balance.
- Designed for the career development of employees.
- Acknowledging and rewarding the contribution of employees at every step.
Mental health is a fundamental domain not only for an individual, organization but for the society. It is, therefore, significant to highlight mental health issues at all levels, since people nowadays spend their maximum time at their workplace. Mental health issues measures should be delivered as part of integrated health care and wellbeing strategy that includes early identification, prevention, treatment, support, and rehabilitation. Professional health-care services or professionals should support organizations in implementing these interventions by all possible means in every working environment. Even when these health-care services are not available several changes in the working environment can make to promote and support mental wellbeing. The key to success is involving stakeholders and staff at all levels when providing protection, promotion, and support mediations and when monitoring their effectiveness.
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Saher Shahid is a student of BS – Environmental science, at Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. She has good communication skills and is a motivational speaker. Saher’s hobbies are Reading, Writing, Cooking, and Music.