Updated: Jan 4, 2019
Why is emotional health vital in the workplace?
Physical health in the workforce has been at the forefront of discussions among employees, employers, doctors, news outlets, social media and various other outlets. However, the topic of emotional health in the workplace seems to be more difficult to address.
When we talk about employee physical wellness, the discussion centers around eating healthy, exercising more, and work life balance. Our everyday activities are the very metrics that businesses are looking for in order to reduce costs. Healthier employees translate to lower insurance costs and lower absenteeism, which results in higher productivity. However, this is just one of the dimensions that needs to be analyzed in order to measure an employee’s overall well- being.
Emotional health is a dimension that is frequently overlooked by employers. Stress, anxiety, and depression are just a few of the emotional health issues affecting the workplace.
These issues have resulted in higher absenteeism and lower productivity, which is costing employers billions of dollars each year.
Let’s start with: what is Emotional health? The organization BelongTo.org (n.d.) quotes the Mental Health Foundation: emotional health is "a positive state of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life.” In other words, how employees behave, feel and think at work. Their reactions to setbacks, production issues, bad bosses, bullying or even a co-worker issue. We see it often when a small issue like a co-worker doesn’t wash his/her coffee mug leads to an outburst of anger between employees who are already are set to explode due to anxiety, stress and depression caused by their jobs.
These situations cannot be resolved only by a “talk” with HR. It needs to be addressed at a deeper level. Emotional health requires education, awareness, and the employer’s willingness to address and empower the employees to make choices that can help them improve their emotional health.
According to a survey conducted by Cigna in March 2018. “Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).” The survey highlights the alarming number of people suffering from an emotional health problem.
“There is an inherent link between loneliness and the workplace, with employers in a unique position to be a critical part of the solution,” said Douglas Nemecek, M.D., chief medical officer for Behavioral Health at Cigna. “Fortunately, thfese results clearly point to the benefits meaningful in-person connections can have on loneliness, including those in the workplace…”
The results reaffirm the point that employers are part of the solution to the increase in emotional health problems that our society is experiencing today.
How do we support mental health at work?
First and foremost, we need to learn to recognize the symptoms. These symptoms can include being more tired than usual, difficulty in getting motivated and concentrating on the task, making uncharacteristic mistakes, being short tempered. These are all red flags of emotional distress, which can lead to outbursts of anger, absences from work, lack of sleeping, and even an increase in alcohol consumption or prescription medicines in order to cope with the anxiety.
What can your employer do?
Emotional distress, like any other disability, entitles the employee to ask for reasonable modifications to the workplace. For example, being provided with a laptop so that the employee can work from home, changing your schedule to start and end your day earlier. These modifications would allow the employee to spend more time with family, provide more flexibility to exercise or start a hobby, or simply avoid morning and afternoon rush hour traffic.
Employers could also offer seminars, classes, and even webinars on yoga, meditation and relaxing techniques to help to control stress levels and anxiety.
Encourage two-way communication between employers and managers in order to recognize the signs of emotional distress and address the potential causes.
What can you do as the employee?
Be open. Find a person or professional where you can talk about your feelings and the things that are troubling you. Find ways to cope with those feelings and channel that energy to positive.
Keep active and exercise regularly. 30 minutes of daily exercise can not only help you maintain your physical health, but also relieves the stress out of your system. Small changes during your workday, such as taking a walk during lunch, can lead to improvements in your emotional health.
Keep in touch. Relationships at work and outside of work are important. Be supportive of others. Working in a supportive environment helps a team to succeed and is vital for the emotional health of the office. Address difficulties with your coworkers and relatives and cultivate those relationships.
Take time to do the things you enjoy. Working on something that brings you pleasure, and fulfillment will help you improve your emotional health. It will reenergize you and boost your self-esteem. Hobbies like gardening, sports, collectibles, music, reading, photography or whatever it is that makes you happy will keep your emotional health in check.
Why is emotional health vital in the work place?
Emotional health is vital in the workplace because it is directly linked to a high performing culture, high productivity, and a happy and engaged workforce. Companies are the reflection of the people who work for them. If they are not happy and healthy, the companies won’t be either.
This article was written by Linda Norquist, M.B.A.. Linda is the founder of 2640 Media, a social media management, strategist and Hispanic marketing Consulting company. Linda’s passion for consulting and mentorship can be traced back to the time in her career when she spent some time in the banking industry. During this time, she mentored over 100 small business owners and assisted with start-up financial advice, business financing, marketing, and sales initiatives and introducing business owners to possible resources and business partners. She gained invaluable experience in guerrilla marketing and content & cultural intelligence. She was born in Bogota Colombia. Her Latino roots give her unparalleled experience in the Hispanic marketing space.
You can find more about Linda and her company at www.twentysixfortymedia.com or her LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/linda-norquist-1b1a5177/