By: Beau Peters
To be successful, you must be the first one in and last one out. You must work extra hours, you must think about work, answer phone calls, reply to emails, even when you’re off the clock. You must put your personal life on hold to impress the boss. You must show your commitment to the company to ensure your place.
These disturbing messages are not just stereotypes of work-obsessed businessmen, they represent the mindset of a large percentage of the American workforce. Many workers, young and old, men and women, new and experienced, live their lives this way. Often, that is how they can get promotions, move up in their companies, and reach their professional goals.
However, just because many people live their lives this way does not mean it doesn’t have significant, negative impacts. In fact, living this way wears on the body so much that it can drastically impact a worker’s health. Luckily, there are many ways companies can work to limit the stress their employees go through and encourage the mental well-being of their workers.
Stress in the American Workforce
American culture has absorbed the fact that work causes stress. While it’s important to be motivated to work hard, sometimes the idea that work should be stressful goes too far. For example, though deadlines are helpful in making sure projects are completed, it is not helpful to be constantly overwhelmed with stress all the time.
Such chronic stress at work can lead to moderate to severe health problems, as well as worsen the symptoms of other chronic conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Some of the more moderate symptoms can include the following:
- Upset stomach
- Elevated blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Lack of motivation
- Change in appetite
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Higher risk of developing viral infections
Additionally, too much stress can also lead to feelings of anxiety and even depression for some. This alarming fact highlights the need for businesses to better support the mental health of their employees.
Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace
Addressing stress in the workplace needs to start by recognizing the demands of the job, especially where the demands may be too high. Employers need to have realistic expectations of their employees and provide an environment to promote motivation and hard work, not an environment of high stress and overwhelming duties. Once those needs are met, employers can dive deeper into the needs of their employees in terms of mental health.
Starting the Conversation About Mental Health
Employers should realize that strong mental health for employees is not only an ethical concern, but it’s good for business as well. A study by the Harvard Business Review reveals just how powerful that can be: “When employers create a culture that supports mental health, workers are more than twice as likely to say they love their job. They are also more likely to plan to stay with their employer for at least the next year.”
The Harvard Business Review also examines ways employers can support employees’ health, and it starts with getting a conversation rolling. The stigma against mental health issues can make employees uncomfortable talking about mental health, so it may be hard to get them involved at first.
It is important for senior employees to be open about their feelings on mental health because it will show employees that they can openly talk about their needs as well, without fear of repercussions. Senior leaders can get the conversation going to show employees that talking about mental health will not put their future at the company at risk.
Including Mental Health Training
Another way businesses can layer in mental wellness promotion is by offering trainings to their employees. This can be done by bringing in health experts to give a workshop in the office or by finding a good webinar that addresses concerns and presents useful tools. This can be helpful as some employees may not recognize symptoms of mental strain or may not know methods to deal with it.
Providing employees with mental health training ensures there is a base layer of knowledge and understanding for all. It can even be helpful for employees who don’t personally need the tools, as it can make them aware of issues they did not know about. Trainings can also cover related issues that are applicable to everyone, such as how to have a good work-life balance.
Health Fairs at the Office
For public health professionals, one of the biggest challenges related to mental health problems is providing access to services. Companies can help their employees by connecting them to community health resources that can promote employee mental health. One way to do this is by having a health fair at work once or twice a year. By inviting health companies to the office to set up a booth, workers can find resources that are a good fit for them and explore options they had not considered.
Some options for businesses to invite can include providers on employees’ insurances, such as dental or vision providers, as well as massage therapists, acupuncture therapists, counselors, gym membership representatives, and more. It is especially good to invite professionals linked to employee benefits, as employees may be interested to try places they hadn’t considered before.
Other options can include inviting local businesses that may provide stress relief for employees. You can try bringing in an essential oil or even a CBD oil business, which can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve sleep, enhance cognitive function, and more.
The way we think of stress in the workplace needs to change. Too many workers equate stress with success, but welcoming stress into their life can result in significant damage. Luckily, businesses can step up to protect their employees from overwhelming distress and help to prevent mental health issues related to work.
About the author
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work.