Workplace mental health for employers and employees

 Workplace mental health can be defined as “optimal psychological functioning that allows the individual to be able to fulfill his occupational goals and participate in occupational activities while maintaining a mutually acceptable relationship with co-workers towards ensuring the overall development of the organization”.

For an individual to attain this level of functioning there must be progressive contributions from the employer, the employee, the work environment and other employees. Overall, the condition of service and workplace environment must be made conducive to the employee by the employer.   

Every employer of labor must also put in place mechanisms for identifying persons who are at risk of/already have a mental illness. The employer must also be willing to provide support for these individuals. Many times, we tend to overlook early signs of imminent breakdown. At other times, we simply just leave individuals to loiter within establishments until their conditions become overtly distressing to them and others. A prompt intervention will reduce the waste of potentials and economic loss of not responding to the mental health needs of the acutely ill.

Every standard organization must have the following in place:
  • Policy for immediate attention to mental health needs as much as physical illnesses. This policy must include the guidelines for providing treatment support for the mentally unwell staff.
  • Comprehensive health insurance policy to defray the cost of treatment.
  • Non-discriminatory outlook towards recruiting persons who have a mental illness.

 

Employers’ Checklist

Any employer of labor who wants their establishment to attain the status of a mentally healthy workplace must review the following questions and pursue their achievement.

  • Do you have a recruitment policy that is fair and targeted towards bringing in the right person for the job in your organization? Giving the wrong person the job will lead to frustration and disillusionment which will affect the progress of the organization and create a vicious cycle.
  • Have you provided the essential and appropriate tools and equipment needed for the job? When you fail to do these and you expect people to still meet organizational goals, then you are preparing the ground for people’s sanity to be challenged. Something as simple as an ergonomically suitable furniture in the office can go a long way to reduce stress.
  • Do you have commensurate remunerations and appropriate incentives for your employees? The issue of salaries and other incentives are very critical.
  • Do you have a means for resolving conflicts within your workplace? When people within an organization have conflicts, there has to be a means of resolving such conflicts amicably. Having to come in contact with persons you have a conflict with at work can persistently trigger negative emotions in the mind that generate physical symptoms.
  • Do you have a means for your employees to ventilate and express their own ideas or demands lawfully and peacefully? Employees must be able to bare their mind peacefully. This prevents anarchy.

Employees’ Checklist

For the employee to achieve and sustain a mentally healthy state in spite of the myriad of challenges possible, he/she must understand that the pursuit of mental wellness is an active process. You have to work for it!! Some of the check questions you can ask yourself include:

  • Do you have a suitable work environment? Creating the right atmosphere for you to work will enhance your productivity and by extension fulfillment. Make yourself comfortable. Sit on a good chair. If your organization fails to get you the right chair to sit on; get one for yourself and take it with you when you leave the office. If your home is comfortable, also make your office comfortable!
  • What do you do when you have conflicts with co-workers? Your reaction must be focused on resolution of the conflict. Communicate your feelings express yourself. If need be in writing because some people are not so good at talking.
  • What do you do when your employer violates your rights? You must explore all lawful means of expressing yourself and making reasonable and legitimate demands. Don’t do anything that will make you or other employees lose your sleep, which could adversely affect your mental health.
  • What do you do when you feel stressed up? Take a break, rest; go on vacation, ask for some time off in accordance with the rules of your organization. Talk to someone about it, at work, home, church, mosque etc. Simply talking can bring relief and insight into the problem. See a health professional in any standard hospital. If need be, you will be asked to speak with a mental health professional. We are trained to listen!!

Within the workplace, the employers and their representatives, the administrators have a duty to promote the interest of the establishment. This can be achieved without being malevolent. The workplace could be made to be a therapeutic environment for staffs that are at risk of/already have a mental illness. There must be ample attention to details of ensuring that the workplace is ergonomically sound. Our approaches towards ensuring that we considerately provide a means for promoting a healthy lifestyle, early detection of mental illness, providing support for evidence-based treatment and ensuring restoration to the previous level of functioning will go a long way to benefiting our workers and in extension the establishment and the image of the establishment as being worker friendly.

Stay safe and sane; help others do the same by sharing this!!

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Ola Ibigbami

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