5 Key Ways to Improve Mental Health in the Office
January 8, 2021
While companies’ don’t owe us our happiness, they should ensure they do not seriously damage our health. This includes mental health, a complex aspect of our lives with multiple factors which could make it deteriorate and, as such, there are multiple ways in which we can care for it.In this article we are going to talk about 5 important areas to consider, regardless of whether you hold a position of leadership or management or if you are an employee. Mental health in the workplace concerns us all: no ship can sale if the sailors don’t follow the guidance of the Captain.
1. Physical environment: Comfort, security, accessibility
A lovely, comfortable and well-equipped workplace is not a guarantee for success to achieve the best performance… it does appear that way. If we also bear in mind the relevance of the current Corona virus situation has in relation to safety, it is evident that the physical space in which we work every day greatly influences the health of employees, including mental health. The office, the studio, the kitchen or even the van, wherever we work every day must ideally be settings which make us want to go there, or at the very least, places where we don’t want to run away from.
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Think about elements such as order, cleanliness, lighting, decoration and the arrangement of the furniture. They all subtly, yet undeniably, impact our mood and also in how easy it is to do our job or properly communicate. If this is your responsibility in your company, you must realise that your team also needs to perceive the workplace as a safe place against Corona Virus and know that your company actively is working to ensure it is safe.
2. Quality of Relationships
If your job was already isolated before, above all if before the pandemic you were already working from home, it is likely that the lock-down hasn’t significantly damaged your routine, like employees who are used to changing their workplace. In any case, a fundamental aspect to improving mental health at work is carefully maintaining the inter-personal relationships of the workforce.
Do you ever feel like the only good thing about your job is how well you get on with your colleagues and the good atmosphere you have? Or are you someone who feels that, regardless of how much you enjoy working where you work, you are extremely lucky to have a great time with your workmates? It goes without saying that the opposite can be psychologically devastating. It is enough if only one team member is a toxic or problematic person to make going to the office every day feel like torture.
A pleasant environment, clear information and good relations between colleagues are fundamental to supporting good mental health in the office.
Sometimes, we do not pay enough attention to improving good working relationships between workmates or we look the other way when there are issues which are turning the work day sour within the company. Work is work and we do not all need to be best friends, but we will certainly to be able to benefit from creating a good atmosphere for all and the connections of trust and mutual help which we are able to shape.
3. Capacity to Work Efficiently
Good will solves many issues, but if the internet doesn’t work or the video-conference is frozen, if I have to deal with my small child when I’m at work or if I don’t have access to certain materials because they are at the office, over time, these inconveniences can lead to burnout, without these issues being directly related with the work itself.It is true that good will solves many issues, but if the system of cross-over of coming and going from shifts becomes unworkable, if we have to be constantly watching what we touch or whose paths we cross, or if we have to wear a face mask for the entire day, it is highly unlikely that we will be working to our best ability.
Depending on nature of the work done and the characteristics of the workforce, it is not easy for all companies to organise the best ways of working during these current months and it is necessary for everyone to show a bit more patience and flexibility. If patience and flexibility are truly present across all levels of the organisation, not only in the lower levels, that being employees with less authority or responsibility, then is it much more likely that things will work better.
4. The perception that my needs are taken into consideration
The pandemic and its corresponding lock-downs and re-openings have turned the way that businesses work upside down. It has also brought to light their strengths and, why not mention it, various bad habits and inertia which have grown over the years, not always with a clear justification, but with a clear impact on the daily lives of employees.
Evidently, the work is what it is and, above all in very big companies or in those with limited resources, it is difficult to organise things in a way which suits everyone’s’ tastes without prejudicing the performance of the company. However, the good thing about when things are upside down and having experimented – albeit forcibly- is that new ways of working is what opens the door to incorporating more logical methods of working or, to say it in another way, that it is a logic which is more focused on the employee and not just the task at hand.
5. Transparency and Fluid Communication
When an employee knows what to expect, believes that there is someone sensible thinking about and making decisions, and is sincerely informed about issues pertaining to them, especially in relation to bad news or the absence of news, that is when anxiety levels tend to diminish. This means, in general terms and not when there are flagrant injustices, that the majority of people tend to demonstrate understanding in a great deal of situations when things are explained to them at an appropriate moment and in an effective way, or at the very least that this is what they perceive is happening. This, in short, is what we often call transparency and it is a magnificent tool to build ties of confidence between the employee and company.
Looking after mental health at work is the responsibility of everyone, as much management as employees.
For this reason, management and more junior employees should maintain a certain attitude of constructive optimism and maturity, and make an effort to mutually motivate each other, but this alone is not enough. Regardless of whether things are going well or bad, a satisfactory flow of information must continue, that there isn’t a sensation of “bad intentions” or “hidden agendas” and that, besides actively working for a grand purpose that we have the sensation that we are moving towards it.
These are just some of the points to take into consideration but certainly if you get thinking and speak with your workforce, even more points will come out. No workplace is perfect for good mental health, but it is not too difficult to take care of the basics to ensure an employee’s health does not suffer. If you need more advice on how best to organise your teams in the face of this new era, do not hesitate: work alongside a true professional, a specialist psychologist can help you in this.
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