We know surprisingly little about why so many people suffer from depression, anxiety or addiction to drugs and alcohol. We do know, however the consequences on their social and economic lives. Among Millennials and Gen-Zers, burnout, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts have been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years.
When it comes to mental health matters, there is a discomfort talking about the subject. There is an underlying shame when talking about depression, burnout, anxiety, and related matters. Mental health issues are becoming a big challenge, it affects all types of people.
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.”
Work is good for mental health but the negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Mental illness affects your ability to function at work, or they may have an effect at all. Mental health disorders often go unrecognized and untreated not only damaging an individual’s health and career but also reducing productivity at work. Mental illnesses are treatable. In the workplace, mental health can also be prevented when organizations take steps to create mentally healthy workplaces for all employees.
Mental health problems have an impact on employers and businesses directly through increased absenteeism, negative impact on productivity and profits, as well as an increase in cost to deal with the issue, and it can affect employee morale. Poor mental health and stress can negatively affect employee:
- Job performance and productivity
- Engagement with one’s work
- Communication with co-workers
- Physical capability and daily function
For people who are experiencing a mental illness, a good work-life balance is critical. The relationship between stress and mental illness is complex, but stress can worsen mental illness for some people. If your career is at risk, it’s time to seek mental health treatment. It’s important to understand mental illnesses are real illnesses. Like other illnesses.
Disclosing your condition at work may come with some unexpected benefits. Not only you get the mental health treatment you need to reduce stress and improve your job performance, but you’ll also contribute to a culture of acceptance and help break down the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
Some workplaces have adopted performance management process focus primarily on interviewing only when an employee is not performing their best or as expected. If the employee is experiencing mental health issues, there risk that this approach may result in worsening both the symptoms and work performance. Effectively supporting good performance is an important management skill. Supportive performance management can be the key to continued productivity.
- Rule out Rule. When you have identified a performance concern, rule out the possibility that it may be related to a mental health issue before you consider disciplinary action.
- Communicate without Judgement. Be aware of your assumptions and judgments about an employee’s behavior. While assumptions or judgments are part of human behavior, it is possible to communicate without allowing these to dictate or influence your response.
- Consider Emotional Triggers. It is important to understand and manage your own reaction to an employee’s performance or behavior at work.
- Be Supportive and Clear. When mental health issues, such as chronic mental stress, burnout, anxiety or depression are present, performance management needs to be supportive and clear. Supportive performance management focuses on the intended outcomes rather than the problem. This makes the conversation feel less like criticism and more like a collaboration focused on a solution.
- Related issues to Performance rather than Personality. Instead of saying “You are being disrespectful to the team when you’re late for meetings,” you could say, “When you are not present at the beginning of the meeting we miss out on your contribution to the issues or we need to take more time to cover the issue again.”
- Highlight Strengths first. This could include emphasizing an employee’s effort, value to the team, or previous accomplishments.
- Separate Acknowledging from Agreeing. Rather than agreeing or disagreeing, try to demonstrate an understanding of the other person’s perspective before you offer your own opinion.
“Mental health…is not a destination, but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going.”
Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand and there is strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. It’s vital that we protect that value by addressing mental health at work for those with existing issues, for those at risk and for the workforce as a whole.
Awareness of mental health is increasing, but we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination and can face challenges getting the help they need. Fear of discrimination and feeling of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling colleagues about their mental health problems. Create a workplace culture where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear, and easier for them to reach out for help when they need it.