The relationship between mental health and workplace safety cannot be overemphasized. It’s been shown that mental health has a great impact on overall health and that poor mental health in the workplace can contribute to the occurrence of physical illnesses such as back pain, headaches, hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, gastrointestinal disturbances, as well as other psychological issues like anxiety and depression. Furthermore, poor mental health can also trigger burnout and seriously affect employees’ morale, level of productivity, efficiency and concentration in their personal and professional lives.
What is poor mental health?
Mental health refers to how well we think, feel and behave. An individual can be said to be in a state of poor mental health or mental disorder when there are abnormality or inconsistencies in thinking, feeling or behaving, such that it affects that person’s ability to function normally, think or act rationally.
Anxiety and depression are the most prevalent mental health problems, and they are often linked to traumatic events, such as bereavement, but can also be caused by work-related issues like stress. Stress has been described as the adverse psychological reaction when people face excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon them. However, there is a clear distinction between pressure, which can sometimes be a motivating factor, and stress, which can occur when pressure becomes unbearable.
Mental health and workplace safety
Statistics around the world indicate that mental health problems are a major cause of employees leaving their companies. According to an article by the World Health Organization, many risk factors influence poor mental health that may be present in the workplace. Many of these work-related risks are connected to the job specifications, the organizational environment, the skills and competencies of employees, and the support available for employees to carry out their work. These work-related risks to mental health include inadequate health and safety policies, poor communication and management practices, low levels of support for employees and inflexible working hours. Also, risks may be increased in working environments where there is inadequate team cohesion or social support.
When people suffer from poor mental health, other dimensions of their health are consequently affected, increasing medical costs and diminishing their ability to gain or regain meaningful employment or even perform at their optimal level while at work. This also have a negative impact outside of work with family and social interactions.
As earlier stated, worker’s mental health can largely impact their professional performance and ultimately influence workplace safety. Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and emotional stress can reduce the quality of life and work rate of workers. An employee dealing with such disorders may struggle to be involved or even totally withdraw from social aspects at work, concentrate on one task at a time, put their full attention and effort into daily tasks, and are often lagging in efficiency. Employees suffering from poor mental health may also be involved in accidents and other work-related hazards which are inimical to workplace safety.
How to improve mental health in the workplace
In order to attain optimal workplace safety, organizations need to pay close attention to how it organizes its work and manages its workforce. This is important because worker’s mental health affects their productivity and ultimately determines the level of the organization’s workplace safety. The converse is also true – how safe and serene the workplace is influences how productive the workers are.
Whether the poor mental health is influenced by the type work being performed or exacerbated by the working environment, employers have a responsibility to help their employees maintain a stable mental health in and out of the workplace. The level of the workplace safety must be properly assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. After the risks have been identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it to the barest minimum.
The most common cause of office stress is dealing with difficult bosses and a prime method of dealing with this is by improving communication skills. Other factors that diminish workplace safety are unclear job assignments, difficult colleagues or co-workers, work-family conflict and high demand for performance. All these can be properly handled when goals are carefully defined and tasks are properly assigned. The development and implementation of organisational mental health policy and program will improve the health of employees, increase the productivity of the company and ultimately contribute to the well-being of the larger community.
Also, professional treatment for poor mental health works. Mental health experts can be hired by business owners to treat employees who are battling mental disorders. The treatment is cost-effective, increases productivity, reduces absenteeism and positively influences the overall growth of the business.
Also, please check out our partner’s Psychological Health Initiative that we are assisting with: https://amhsa.devcogroup.com/psychological-health-impact-group/. This only applies if you are a member of the Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association, unfortunately!