One of the highlights of 2018 was seeing the attention that the subject of mental health received globally. This awareness of mental health issues has shown us the importance of creating environments that support the mental well-being of people.
In my role, one of the areas of HR that I champion wholeheartedly is Workplace Wellness. I like seeing how responsive and appreciative employees are toward the resources that support their physical, emotional, mental, or financial well-being. However, in this blog, my focus is on mental wellness in the workplace. I think it is important because some of the factors that adversely impact an individual’s mental health may be at work.
Have you ever experienced any of these: Work overload, inefficient processes, ambiguous roles and responsibilities, rigid work schedules, unsafe working conditions, conflicts, bullying, or the absence of a support system? If you have, think about how that experience made you feel. Do words like overwhelmed, stressed, worried, exhausted, demotivated, or anxious, resonate with you?
“Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.” - World Health Organization (WHO)
Indeed, such negative feelings do not encourage productivity. We should be aware that we spend most of our daily hours working. To cope with the possible stressors in the workplace, we need to define our plans to stay healthy. Here are some simple ways to prioritize your mental well-being:
- Task Management: Determine to complete one task before working on the next. Also, it might help you to ask for an expected deadline when there are assigned tasks. Doing this helps you organize your workload in a way that allows you to stay focused, limit unnecessary distractions, deliver on time, and feel more confident about your deliverables.
- Prioritize Emails and Calls: There are times that you may have an overwhelming number of missed calls or unread emails, and this is quite common after a long period away from work. Instead of feeling disoriented, it might be helpful to quickly scan through your emails or call log to determine those that require an immediate response. Once addressed, you may take your time in returning the less urgent ones.
- Own Your Time: You can incorporate elements of self-care with your time at work— using blocks on your calendar that show things like, “Take a break” or “Do not schedule.” You may also create buffer times that enable you to refresh your mind after those inevitably long meetings. Of course, you should determine what works for you and your workplace. The point here is to care for yourself and your time.
- Focus On What You Can Control: There are just certain things we cannot control. For example, you cannot control the behaviors, thoughts, or actions of others. However, you do have control over your reaction to things and your performance at work. When you shift your focus and energy to the things you can control, you become a more productive employee.
- Delegate: According to John C. Maxwell, author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, ”If something I’m doing can be done 80 percent as well by someone else, I delegate it.” Delegating tasks to others not only relieves you of stress but allows you to focus on tasks that require your unique skills. Delegating tasks also gives others the opportunity to hone their skills.
- Use Your Lunch Breaks: This depends on what your policy says about lunch breaks and the time allocated to it. For example, if you are allowed a paid 30-minute lunch break, you can step away from your work station to have lunch or use the time for a short walk. The brain and stomach both need this time!
- Enjoy Your Vacation Time: It is almost impossible to ignore those email notifications that come up while on vacation considering the number of apps that we keep running. However, feeling tensed about work while you should be relaxing defeats the purpose of taking a vacation. You may consider leaving a detailed out-of-office message with specific guidelines on what to do if an email request is urgent. This way, you do not let notifications steal your relaxation time.
- Ask For What You Need: This could mean asking for work flexibility, role clarity, or access to mental health resources (like educative materials or licensed mental health professionals). Whichever is the case, you should not feel ashamed to ask for those resources that can help you be a more productive employee.
In conclusion, a mentally healthy workplace benefits both employees and employers. So, we owe it to ourselves to be healthy and work effectively. On the other hand, employers need to be supportive and considerate of employees with mental health issues as well as create environments that allow for open discussions of mental wellness.