Understanding Mental Health in the Workplace and the Role of Employee Wellbeing Programs

With growing awareness of mental health in the workplace and increased investment in employee wellbeing, mental ill health remains a widely misunderstood subject. Terms like anxiety, stress, and depression are now common, yet HR professionals and business leaders often struggle to understand what these labels mean for their employees and, importantly, how to address them effectively.

These labels can also create fear among managers, who worry about addressing mental health problems within their teams in case they make things worse or handle situations incorrectly. Despite mental ill health becoming part of everyday language, it is not the real problem when it comes to employee wellbeing in the workplace.

Mental Health is Not the Problem

To understand why mental health is not the root issue but rather a byproduct of other factors, consider the scenario of Mary:

Mary works in publishing and has been with her company for five years. Over the past six months, her workload has increased due to cuts in headcount. Mary feels the pressure of her increased workload along with an underlying fear of losing her job. Living alone without financial support, her fear of job loss disrupts her sleep, leading her to drink wine each night to relax. However, this affects her sleep quality, causing her to wake up tired and rely on more coffee. Her declining energy levels lead to poor diet choices and less frequent gym visits.

At work, Mary’s focus, motivation, and productivity suffer. Over time, she develops stomach cramps and is diagnosed with IBS. Despite attempts to adjust her lifestyle, the ongoing stress leads to further health declines and eventually work-related stress, requiring her to take a leave of absence. This scenario shows that Mary’s mental health issues stemmed from an inability to cope with workplace changes and pressures.

Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

Had Mary possessed the knowledge to identify stress responses and access tools and resources like those found on employee wellbeing platforms, her situation might have been prevented. Creating a culture of psychological safety, where employees feel safe to speak out, is also crucial. Additionally, if her manager had attended mental health training for managers and knew how to spot the signs Mary was struggling with and felt confident in speaking to her about her mental health, they could have directed her to internal resources for earlier intervention.

By taking a prevention-over-cure approach, significant improvements in employee wellbeing in the workplace can be achieved. This involves educating employees about wellbeing and recognising when they are not okay. For instance, hosting employee wellbeing webinars can be an effective way to start these conversations.

The Role of Employee Wellbeing Programs

Effective employee wellbeing programs provide comprehensive support, addressing both physical and mental health. These programs should include:

  • Access to resources for managing stress and building resilience
  • Regular training for managers to identify and address mental health issues
  • Tools for employees to understand and manage their wellbeing
  • Creation of a supportive and open workplace culture

Take Action: Enhance Employee Wellbeing

Investing in proactive employee wellbeing programs can offer significant benefits. These programs not only support employees during crises but also equip them with the tools to manage stress and maintain their wellbeing proactively. Book a free consultation call with us today to learn how we can help you create a holistic employee wellbeing strategy that supports your people at all levels. By investing in comprehensive employee wellbeing programs, you can foster a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

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