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Putting Mental Health at the Forefront in the Workplace is the New Norm

At last, the spotlight is turning toward the critical issue of mental health. Amidst the current wave of negative events surrounding us, it is high time to confront the challenges we face regarding our mental well-being. The pandemic’s impact, the emergence of wars, escalating natural disasters due to climate change, countries grappling with economic crises, and a cascade of other significant stressors have undeniably made mental health issues pervasive.

Since the onset of the pandemic, during which we were compelled to stay home, many of us found the opportunity to reflect on our lives. Unfortunately, these reflections often led to realizations that fell short, triggering mental breakdowns within the confines of our homes. If there’s one positive outcome from the pandemic (aside from the newfound gardening skills and the introvert’s paradise of staying at home, guilty as charged), it’s the realization that our mental health is as crucial as, if not more than, earning a livelihood.

Mental Health in the Workplace.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we often neglect our mental health, assuming there’s no time to spare in our hectic schedules. Regrettably, these mental health issues are perceived more as inconveniences than genuine concerns.

A recent study led by the World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy a staggering US$1 trillion annually in lost productivity. WHO also reports that over half of the world’s population is currently employed, and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder. Amidst the challenges, one positive development is the growing normalization of mental health issues in the workplace.

There are 13 factors: Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace according to Mental Health Commission of Canada:

  • Organizational Culture
  • Psychological and Social Support
  • Clear Leadership & Expectations
  • Civility & Respect
  • Psychological Demands
  • Growth & Development
  • Recognition & Reward
  • Involvement & Influence
  • Workload Management
  • Engagement
  • Balance
  • Psychological Protection
  • Protection of Physical Safety

These factors significantly impact employees’ mental health and promote discussions on creating psychologically safe work environments. Employers and leaders failing to recognize these factors risk underperforming employees due to their unhealthy mental states.

According to Harvard Business Review, in 2019, employers were just beginning to grasp the prevalence of these challenges and the need to address stigma, along with the emerging link to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). By 2020, mental health support evolved from a nice-to-have to a genuine business essential. Today, the stakes are even higher, with a deeper understanding of workplace factors contributing to poor mental health and increased urgency around its intersections with DEI.

It’s encouraging that more employers and leaders are recognizing the significance of their people’s mental health. However, there’s still much more to be done. Continuous improvement and the implementation of new measures are essential to address mental health issues and reduce the associated stigma. Beyond achieving success, what we truly need is more compassion, understanding, vulnerability, and sustainable ways of working.

We are infinitely connected, just like the circle.

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