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Maintaining Sustainable Mental Health at the Workplace

Posted by Johnny (john) on Nov 13 2017
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Maintaining Sustainable Mental Health at the Workplace

 The demands of modern life and the global economy dictate that many people are increasingly spending more time at the workplace. Research shows that work is a positive influence on the state of mind but finding oneself in an unfavourable working environment can potentially be challenging to mental health and consequently, productivity.

Upholding mental health, therefore, is important for organization to meet their bottom line because a work environment promotes mental well-being, supports individuals affected by mental disorders and potentially keeps disruptions to labour hours at a minimum. 

Working conditions

 Several conditions at the workplace can contribute adversely to the mental state of its occupants. These include a lack of policies regarding health and safety; poor communication and management practices; a lack of control over decision making processes affecting one’s sphere of work; minimal support for employees and a lack of flexibility for work schedule.

An incoherent and unsupportive work environment also heightens susceptibility to Mental health is also significantly inimically affected by persistent heckling and intimidation at the workplace.

This phenomenon, also sociologically referred to as “mobbing” where employees are subjected to work-related stress, causes deterioration in both physical and psychological well-being at the workplace, creating the conditions for low work output and higher rates of employee turnover, potentially making them burdens to their families and communities.

One of the necessary conditions for attaining a conducive work environment that facilitates mental well-being is the enforcement of legislation that guides workplaces conduct with respect to issues that germane to the psychological state people within the workplace. The world Economic Forum study recently produced the following three-way guide towards enhancing mental health at the workplace:

  • Reduce work-related risk factors.
  • Focus on promoting the positive aspects of work and the strengths of employees.
  • Address mental health problems irrespective of cause.

Apart from these, the following represent other generally recommended best practices towards promoting mental health care in the workplace:

  • Instituting systems capable of identifying distress, harmful use of psychoactive substances and illness, as well as providing resources to manage them as means of addressing negative workplace dynamics and instituting health and safety policies and practices.
  • Effective communication system that is easily accessible for information to or from employees.
  • Decision-making processes that acknowledge the unique circumstances of individual employees.
  • Enabling flexible work schedules and redesigning job routines.

Delivery of mental health at the workplace should be part of a coherent and consolidated health well-being scheme spanning prevention, early identification, support and rehabilitation. At the same time, regular service can be provided by professionals to guide organisations in implementing these interventions. At every step of the way, however, there should be the involvement of employees to ensure the success of interventions.


The role of leadership can be fundamental by setting clear instances of openness and liberality in the workplace about their own experiences with mental health whether personal or observed/inferred through discussing them. When people of influence and position of power at the workplace openly discuss mental health, the condition is greatly demystified, not seen any more as a curtailer to the ambition and aspiration of progression up the professional ranks for those affected by the condition. It also helps to break down organization cultural barriers that hinder mental health patients from contributing maximally to organizational growth.


Net benefits

Indeed, it is estimated that it costs global economy as much as US$ 1 trillion in lost productivity due to depression and anxiety, according t0 a recent World Health Organization (WHO)-sponsored study. Some cost-benefit analyses of tackling matters mental health at the workplace indicate that there are net benefits, as carried in a different recent WHO-sponsored report. The report projected that as much as USD $4 is realized as returns in improved health and productivity for every USD $1 invested in a scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders.


Role of WHO

The WHO Global Plan of Action on Worker’s Health 2008-2017 has set out important principles, targets and schemes to realise enhanced mental health in the workplace globally, as does the Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 by the same organisation.

WHO also runs a “Protecting Workers’ Health” series as a guide to support or help organisations navigate general concerns such as harassment and stress capable of affecting the mental health of workers. The global organization, as part of the larger evidence-based healthcare providing Mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), also provides a mechanism as an early warning system to help identify and manage conditions such as alcohol and drug use disorders, and suicide prevention necessary for augmenting mental well-being at the workplace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This article was written


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Last changed: Nov 14 2017 at 1:55 PM

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