Back in September, the charities Mind and Heads Together launched a new initiative to raise awareness of mental health in the workplace. This was in the light of a recent Mind study, which found that 48% of people reported experiencing a mental health problem in their current workplace (Heads Together, 2018).
The Stevenson/Farmer report (2017) reported that the UK was facing a “significant challenge” to our mental health in the workplace. In this report it states that although 1.5 million people with mental illness are in work in the UK, around 300,000 people lose their jobs every year due to poor mental health. They also estimated the total cost of mental illness to employers at between £33 and £42 billion each year. Workers can also feel as though they have to hide any mental health problems from their employers, due to a fear of negative consequences or being treated differently at work (Walton, 2003).
One recent systematic review of mental health at work found that there is some evidence to suggest that modern workplaces can have a detrimental affect on our mental health (Harvey et al, 2017). In particular, factors such as having high job demands, low job control, stress, or bullying (amongst others) were associated with a higher risk of developing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Another important factor which influences employees’ mental health is having a work-life balance, something many of us are striving for in current workplace cultures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one study found that having a poor work-life balance is associated with higher levels of anxiety, whereas having a good work-life balance was related to higher levels of job and life satisfaction (Haar et al, 2014).
Research has also been carried out to explore how to improve the workplace for optimal mental health. Modifying the work environment to increase employees exposure to sunlight or natural elements can help to improve their mental health and increase their feelings of job satisfaction and commitment (An et al, 2016). There is also evidence to suggest that mindfulness based interventions can help to reduce stress levels, psychological stress and fatigue (Huang et al, 2015). It should be noted that the mindfulness intervention used in this study involved 2 hours of training a week and 45 minutes of self practice each day for 8 weeks, so although useful in the long term, this approach is not something which provides instant results!
Thanks for reading this post – if you’d like more information on mental health in the workplace then please visit https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/.
An, M., Colarelli, S.M., O’Brien, K. and Boyajian, M.E., 2016. Why we need more nature at work: Effects of natural elements and sunlight on employee mental health and work attitudes. PloS one, 11(5), p.e0155614.
Haar, J.M., Russo, M., Suñe, A. and Ollier-Malaterre, A., 2014. Outcomes of work–life balance on job satisfaction, life satisfaction and mental health: A study across seven cultures. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 85(3), pp.361-373.
Harvey, S.B., Modini, M., Joyce, S., Milligan-Saville, J.S., Tan, L., Mykletun, A., Bryant, R.A., Christensen, H. and Mitchell, P.B., 2017. Can work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problems. Occup Environ Med, 74(4), pp.301-310.
Huang, S.L., Li, R.H., Huang, F.Y. and Tang, F.C., 2015. The potential for mindfulness-based intervention in workplace mental health promotion: results of a randomized controlled trial. PloS one, 10(9), p.e0138089.
Walton, L., 2003. Exploration of the attitudes of employees towards the provision of counselling within a profit-making organisation. Counselling and Psychotheraphy Research, 3(1), pp.65-71.
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