Caring for Mental Health in the Workplace: 4 Basic Elements
January 8, 2021
We all spend a lot of time in our place of work. This could either be good for our mental health or perhaps a serious issue. We do what we do, the “office” is a place where our interior well-being can be affected and also where we have an opportunity to take care of ourselves and those who work alongside us.
Every workplace is an island, just like every person is. Therefore, when evaluating what we can do to take care of our mental health in the workplace, we can see that there are infinite factors which could strengthen, or be detrimental, to our psychological well-being. Why? Because not everyone is affected by the same things, nor do we have the same needs.
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If you want to take care of the mental health of your workers, don’t over-complicate things and focus on the basics: space, time, conditions and relationships.
Even so, we shouldn’t get frustrated by not knowing how to arrive at a mid-point which suits everyone. We can’t always overthink that something will escape us because there are so many factors which affect mental health of employees that it is impossible to support it in just one objective way.
Where do we begin when taking care of mental health in the office?
A lot of the time we don’t know where to even begin, whether we are the employees or the managers of our teams. In these situations, a good starting point to gauge the general mental health of our company is to start with the basics. Consider a few things that, indisputably, we have to preserve to improve the mental health within the corporate environment, or at the very least, not destroy it.
Later on we will talk about four of these primary factors which you should focus on. Here we will give you a few general lines which later you will have to adapt to suit your own individual reality as an employee and, of course, that it is financially viable in your workplace. Simply take these as some ideas as a starting point. Make the most of seeing what other elements you could add to your list to improve your level of well-being or that of those who you work alongside.
1. Physical space and psychological well-being
Don’t get lost in the frills about health. Start watching to check that the space is adequate for the task at hand and it is as pleasant as possible for the people who use it. In the same way, miracles do not exist and the factory, the office or the cafeteria are what they are. However, remember that what does exist is the capacity to carefully manage the tidiness, the lighting, the temperature, a few basic materials or a consistent distribution of furniture.
Physical space influences greatly how well or how bad we might be feeling, independent of the task we are undertaking. It doesn’t matter if we are junior employees or if we are directors, we must always try and make sure that the material conditions we are working in are appropriate, pleasant and they don’t repulse us. That people have a comfortable chair and a big enough table, that there is light, it is neither too hot nor too cold, no creeping noises or junk in the way and, without doubt, that people are not crowded together on top of each other. When building a house, we must start with the foundations.
2. Appropriate time management
Time management is crucial for our interior world to work and thus we can work properly. We can evaluate this in two ways. The first consists of to what degree an employee has sufficient and appropriate time to carry out their task.
From this point of view, if they lack time it is going to be frustrating, stressful and feel never ending because the demands are supposedly obtainable. Furthermore, the person will live with a permanent sensation of insecurity for the possible errors made due to the rush. On the contrary, if there is an excess of free time, the consequence will be to use it in a disorganised way due to being distracted. Furthermore, the person will get bored and feel that they have to pretend to be working hard, which is exhausting. Perhaps the boss could even reproach the employee for not being productive during all of their workday when in reality, it isn’t their fault that there is no work to even do. This could lead to the hierarchical relationships becoming damaged.
The alternative way of observing time management does not depend on the company, but on the responsibility of the individual. Every person must evaluate the best way to distribute their time based on the completion of the tasks ahead. For this, one must consider the different level of important for each task and find the best way to complete them. In other words, one must develop their ability to be responsible, efficient and know how to organise oneself. Talent is great, but only by being organised can we make the most of our time for which we are being paid.
3. Taking care of relationships between employees
If there is anything that can either make or break the subjective well-being of a person it is the relationships with their peers within the workplace. In other words, the quality of interactions and emotional ties with their direct colleagues.
We all know that a job could be the worst in the world but if we do it with wonderful people at our side, it becomes tolerable, even likable. On the other hand, we could be indifferent with a job but if we are surrounded by people who we have absolutely no connection with or that don’t treat us well, it could turn into an everyday torture.
Colleagues’ don’t have to be your friends. The most important thing that we have clear is that, friends or not, we can appreciate each other and build cooperative relationships, affinity and trust. This will improve everyone’s mood, as well as the general level of motivation. You have guessed it! If we are happy and motivated at work, the quality of the task we are completing will skyrocket.
4. Relationships between different levels
Interpersonal relationships in the workplace are not only made between counterparts, that is to say, direct colleagues. They are also made with their bosses and, if they have them, with their more junior staff.
Evidently, relationships between distinct levels of the company hierarchy have their quirks compared to those which we create with colleagues who are at the same level. However, both have something in common. We have to carefully take care of them because this is important to work well and is important for the psychological health of all.
Sometimes, as employees, we see our bosses as unknown, unreachable or authoritarian, and this doesn’t help us to work comfortably. On the other hand, when it is our turn to take on a role of coordination or authority, we can find ourselves lost, that we don’t know how to manage this distance that exists between our level in the hierarchy of the company and that of our staff. Sometimes we don’t find the correct tone to relate to them, which makes the atmosphere bitter. Both scenarios are damaging on the ability for us to carry out our respective tasks and will lead to us all feeling even more uncomfortable (more unhappy, if you prefer) in the workplace. In the end, it is important to monitor this so that it doesn’t happen.
It is fundamental to take care of relationships between colleagues and also between different hierarchical levels within the company.
To do this, we must find the ability to handle the authority associated with our roles without over or under-stepping the mark. If we can achieve this with maturity, cordiality and charm, we will encourage an emotional atmosphere of trust in the office instead of frosty kingdom or, in the worst of all cases, a domain of fear.
Definitively, having a different work status doesn’t imply being condemned to being hated, attacking each other or put up with the intolerable. It does imply that, from different positions of authority, they are working as a team to move forward and complete the task at hand. This will be done in a more efficient and, above all, healthier way when you have good relationships between bosses and their junior employees.
We have set out only four of the most basic elements which could influence, either positively or negatively, your mental health when you work and also the health of the people around you. Take a look, think about what everyone is doing well and what are you all doing wrong. Surely there are very simple things which you could change today to make everyone feel that little bit better.
If you find that things are more serious than they first appear, then maybe it is time to take the next step and get some professional help. Remember that psychologists also help to support with these issues and we can help you or your team to protect your well-being. Think about it, we are here for you.
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