In light of these staggering figures, maybe it’s time all employers more seriously considered investing in improvements to mental health awareness and management. In fact, if you’re concerned with spending money as an employer then investing in mental health could actually SAVE you money in the long run. For example, a recent WHO-led study estimated that for every US$1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of US$4 in improved health and productivity.
What are the warning signs to look out for?
Symptoms of mental unrest in the workplace may manifest themselves in a variety of ways. An article by the Equality and Diversity Unit of Oxford University provides a comprehensive list of symptoms to take into consideration:
Physical symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, indigestion, changes in sleep patterns
Psychological symptoms: Anxiety, tearfulness, low mood, indecisiveness, loss of humour, illogical thought processes
Behavioural symptoms: Increased smoking and drinking, withdrawal, irritability, restlessness, uncharacteristic errors, and uncharacteristic problems with colleagues,
Changed attendance patterns: Lateness, working long hours, taking leave at short notice.
Line managers who spot these symptoms in employees should be quick to address and deal with them before they escalate and potentially become more damaging to the overall productivity of the individual, the team and the business.
The specific causes of mental unrest in the workplace
Mental health, much like physical health, can often fluctuate depending on what causal factors an individual may be exposed to. According to research by the CIPD, 70% of employee mental health problems are either directly caused by work or by a combination of work and home.
In acknowledging the prevalence of workplace triggers, managers need to be alert to the potential workplace triggers for distress in employees, such as:
- Working long hours with no breaks.
- Unrealistic expectations or deadlines.
- High-pressure environments with no positive reinforcement from upper management.
- Poor working environment devoid of adequate lighting, kitchen or break room facilities or sanitation products.
- Unmanageable workloads with demotivating consequences should deadlines be missed.
- Negative relationships or poor communication.
- Poor workplace culture or lack of management support.
- Job insecurity or change in management.
- High-risk roles that may attract backlash from friends and family.
- Working alone.
How business leaders can create a culture of acceptance
Managers need to be proactive by developing and implementing a Wellness Action Plan.
A good Wellness Action Plan should prioritise the following:
Assess the risk factors of stress or mental unrest: By detecting the cause or triggers of mental health problems in the workplace, you can plan to minimise them where possible.