Good mental health at work and good management go hand-in-hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high level of mental well-being are more productive where addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by as much as 12% to 14 %. Covid-19 has raised the levels of stress, anxiety, social isolation and depression across the globe and in the last few year, people are waking up to deal with the issue of mental illness or waking up to the fact that this suffering is real, substantial, widespread, treatable and yet barely treated.
Anxiety is one of the many disorders which is confronted by individuals at different stages and spheres of life while many people are squished by anxiety due to change in working structure since Covid times. Daily routine of meeting deadlines, learning new tools, dealing with conflicts and trying to climb the career ladder creates a daily struggle.
Work stress is normal but that is persistent, irrational, overwhelming and impairs one’s daily functioning may indicate an anxiety disorder. The workplace where many spend the majority of their waking hours each work – is often the most structured and controlled environment in workers lives and it is often their primary means of social and emotional support. As such, the workplace is a critical setting for understanding and supporting mental health.
Mental health is a growing concern across the world and the World Deloitte’s Mental Health Survey 2022 said that poor mental health of employees cost Indian employers about US$ 14 billion every year. Amidst such serious mental health concerns as 80% of the Indian workforce facing mental health issues in the recent past, it isn’t difficult to discern that Indian employees needed to step up and pay more attention to those facing adverse mental health concerns.
Positive and supportive workplace practices can boost employees physical and psychological health and companies moral. So, what’s causing the anxiety? In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Vaneeta Batra, Transformational Life Coach, revealed, “Heavy workload is the single biggest culprit according to the surveys. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, not being paid enough was another major cause of work related worry. One in a four employee also blamed “toxic staff” for anxiety. Bullying and conflict at workplace, long working hours, politics and favouritism at work, managing deadlines etc are a few more causes.”
She added, “In the modern world anxiety has become one of the significant health issues for working adults. Furthermore, this stress is a leading cause of anxiety and other mental health issues among employees. As we strive to be more competitive every day, we make our mental health vulnerable.” She suggested a few ways which help reduce anxiety:
1. Maintain clear ,open regular communication – Negate the effects of this by maintaining clear ,open and regular face to face communication with the team members.
2. Give people control — Anxiety is strongly linked to our perception of control , so it’s no surprise that a lack of control is one of the leading cause of employee stress.
3. Workplace stress and anxiety are closely linked. By discovering and managing the cause of work related stress within your organisation, you will also reduce employee anxiety.
4. Keep an eye on workload – Regular checks on work load will help your manager to identify employees who might have capacity to take on work from those who have the most on their plate . Sometimes, bottlenecks can be cleared by freeing up an employee from taking on fresh tasks or checking their mails for a while .
5. Review your flexible working arrangements – Helping employees to work at the times when they are most effected had advantages.
6. Forming an employee assistance programme (EAP) – An EAP can put employees into contact with third parties such as counselling and referral services, helping them to deal with personal problems that might affect their performance and well being at work .
7. Encouraging employees to plan ahead – Encouraging employees to plan out the week ahead before leaving work on a Friday. They can do this by using calendars , apportioning specific times to specific tasks and preparing to tackle the biggest challenges first. This means planning when a job will be done rather than wondering when to tackle it .
Since facing higher stress levels at work can impact employee output and lead to chronic diseases in the long run, Sonal Jindal, Founder of Medusa Exim, recommended:
- Promote healthier lifestyle at work. Whether it is installing gym equipment at office, providing shower facilities or offering exercise breaks during day, employers can ensure the wellbeing of their employees by ensuring that health is a priority at work.
- Health Workshops. Stress management workshops can educate employees on how to manage stress through their personal and professional timelines.
- Follow working hours. It isn’t surprising to see a 9-to-5 work day morph into a 9-to-7 or 8 or 9 work day. Though work can wait, it is often important to follow deadlines too. But that should come at a cost of employees’ health. Therefore, ensure that your employees are taking full advantage of their lunch breaks, leaving on time on most of the days, and enjoying regular vacations.
Adding to the list of coping mechanisms, Shama Soni, Founder of Ashhwika Foundation, advised –
1. A healthy lifestyle: Introducing a healthy regime in your daily life can do wonders for you. Small session of exercise, be it gym, cycling or walk and healthy eating habit will help you combat anxiety at work place and to promote your physical and mental well being.
2. Be realistic: Don’t overcommit in looking good and ask for help when needed. Work for your self esteem besides financial gain.
3. Exchange of emotions: Promote the concept of living library, build a group of buddies at work place and have one on one conversations of personal experience of sharing, questioning and reflection that can significantly alter perceptions and give acceptance. The goal is to challenge stereotypes and discriminate through dialogue.
4. Holistic wellness: Healing activities or emotional release therapies can be introduced in the workplace to keep workers productive more confident happier and increase resilience to work and life stress.
5. Take counselling: Transform stress & anxiety through online counseling sessions in which people observe their thoughts & emotions without judgment. Relying on virtual and in person group classes will help guide people to better mental health solutions.
6. Giving back to the community: Sensitizing employees about their community and inspiring them to volunteer or aid for the cause as kindness always help you feel good and overcome your mental stress.