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Talking about Mental Health at the Workplace

Talking about Mental Health at work creates a healthy environment at the workplace where every person working can open up about their concerns and can feel understood.

Talking about mental health at work improves the relationship between the employees and the employer as it provides the manager or the employer with feedback on how to manage their employees and their workload, when to tone down work and when to provide support to get the best out of them. It also forms a bond between members and provides a feeling of belongingness for employees with and without mental illnesses. 

According to recent mental health workplace statistics, over 36% of employees in India have reported experiencing mental health issues over the past year. Moreover, more than 50% are worried about an uncertain future caused due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to another survey conducted by Oracle’s 2020 AI@ Work-Study, 92% of employees in India have reported feeling more comfortable talking about mental issues with a bot over their manager. 

A prevalent stigma around mental health can be seen here which exacerbates every time people are experiencing some mental unrest or illness within, but don’t end up talking about it out of fear of judgement. 

A common reason why people refrain from talking about their mental health at the workplace is due to the fear of being judged as weak, so they end up suppressing what they’re feeling. This could be largely due to an unhealthy environment at the office which eventually builds up into more mental tension and stress, causing a decrease in the productivity levels of the whole team. This is the cost the company, the employer and the employee all have to bear together. Not addressing mental health can lead to relationship problems and a toxic environment at the workplace. 

How to talk about mental health in the workplace?

For Employers/Managers: 

  • Creating a safe environment- It’s up to the managers and employers to create an environment where an employee feels safe to open up and communicate any difficulties. If your relationship with your employees hasn’t been ideal, bringing up mental health all of a sudden might seem difficult. In such a case, you can start by building rapport by subtly sharing your daily life struggles, it could be something as simple as how your newborn is keeping you up at night with all the crying or how the inflating prices are increasing your stress, and then from there, you can go on to ask them about their daily struggles and what is concerning them at the moment. 
  • Don’t try to fix them, instead listen when they speak- When your employees do speak up about their daily concerns, don’t try to fix them rather listen to what they are speaking. Try to listen, understand and empathize with them rather than giving out solutions or advice. Remember, no one likes to hear advice about how they should go about their personal lives. 
  • Managing human resources accordingly- When your employees let you know about their mental health, try to manage it within the resources available in the company. If a person needs a break to cope, then give it to them and allocate the workload to someone else accordingly, so that work goes on smoothly. 
  • Look out for signs in behaviours- Keep a passive eye out for signs of mental illnesses in your team members. A lot of time members won’t speak up even though they are going through something. In such cases, detecting any symptoms early and showing concern can help the employee struggling to open up. It also saves your company from lower productivity levels and losing valuable employees. 

For Employees: 

  • Relationship with Employer- Before talking about mental health at the workplace with your boss, check up on how your relationship is with the employer, like how close you are to your employer? Is he/she someone capable of understanding mental health? Do they take mental health seriously at your workplace? 
  • Let them know you have something important to talk about - Giving your employer a heads up by letting them know you have something important you want to talk about in private can set up the environment where your employer can devote time to attend to your concerns. 
  • What do you expect to gain out of it? – Before having a conversation with your employer, it is important to think about what do you expect to gain out of the conversation? Is it a temporary leave or a decrease in workload for a while? Whatever it is, it is better to have your concerns thought out clearly. 

Talking about Mental Health in the Workplace is the first step to remove any existing stigma and extend support to your team. A workplace that has its foundation based on healthy communication and understanding will yield better productivity and workplace satisfaction in the long run. 

If keeping a check on your employees and co-worker’s mental health can’t be done due to time constraints, scheduling regular checkups can be another way to ensure your team’s mental wellbeing. It is imperative to keep a check on mental wellbeing both for you and your colleagues at the workplace. After all, a company where the needs of the employees are met is where work satisfaction and productivity levels will rise rapidly, leading to a successful organization. Self-management with the help of curated content for mental wellbeing also helps to improve your quality of life.