On a daily basis, mental health affects everyone. It determines one's mood and influences how one reacts to stress and handles the challenges of life.
With the cost of living continuously on the rise, many people are working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. While it is healthy financially, it can cause issues mentally. The stress many people face in the workplace sometimes outweighs any possible benefits and even poses a threat to their health--physical and mental.
Job stress is defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the United States as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker, which can lead to poor health and even injury.
What are the stressors in the workplace?
Workplace stressors can be physical and psychosocial. The physical environment of the workplace includes poor lighting, poor office layout, unnecessary noise, and ergonomic factors, such as bad working postures. These stressors are just on the surface and can be easily corrected.
The psychosocial stressors such as heavy workload, unrealistic demands, poorly managed organizational change, job insecurity, lack of support from management and colleagues, and lack of communication affect the employees' mental health on a deeper level.
Job-related stress not only affects the worker but also has adverse effects on company performance.
What can the employer do to create a healthy working environment?
A good employer will show concern for their employees' well-being and will do what they can to ensure that the workplace environment is healthy.
While most workplaces have already established a formal mental wellbeing strategy, it is important to move beyond the reactive initiatives and focus on proactive, preventative measures that can meet the needs of the entire workforce not just today but also in the future.
The biopsychosocial approach of dealing with workplace stress
The biopsychosocial model focuses on identifying the source of stress and creating proactive and preventive measures to remove or reduce potential workplace stressors. These preventive measures focus not only on the physical but also the psychosocial stressors.
Addressing physical stressors
Employers can address the physical stressors by redesigning the physical work environment.
When redesigning the workspace, employers should consider the following: lighting, acoustics, ergonomics, ventilation, and heating/cooling system. The simplest tasks, such as replacing a broken light bulb, can make a difference.
Some companies go to greater lengths and adopt custom-designed office spaces to create an environment that increases employee performance and productivity.
With the added danger brought by COVID-19, employers can help ease the minds of employees by establishing control measures to reduce the employees' exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Addressing psychosocial stressors
To prevent or reduce potential psychosocial stressors, employers can implement the following:
- Increase time and resources for completing specific job tasks
- Match job description with employee skills and qualifications
- Recognize employee efforts
- Create clear pathways for promotion and reward
- Increase employee collaboration in decision making and work planning
- Provide breaks and nap times for employees
Employers can also implement corrective measures focusing on changing the way employees perceive and respond to stressors. These interventions aim at helping workers identify and cope with stress-induced symptoms early: mental health training and education, cognitive behavioral therapy training, routine health check-up (screening for stress symptoms and other health issues such as high blood pressure).
For those workers who are already experiencing stress which can sometimes lead to depression, employers can help provide medical care and employee assistance programs. They can also offer rehabilitation and return-to-work programs as needed.
Mental health is a huge issue in today’s workplace. With burnout rates reaching depression level, mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in the working population.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Workplaces can implement preventive, corrective, and control measures for employees. Identify issues early on and correct them before they manifest into something worse, and provide assistance to those already affected.
By openly recognizing work-related stress as a genuine problem, management can help de-stigmatize it.
It is important that employers recognize the signs of stress or depression among their staff and understand how essential it is to prioritize an employee's mental health above all else.