Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace

Published May 6, 2024

4 minute read

Keeping your employees safe from harm is a top priority for any employer. Not only does this include physical harm, but it also includes mental health and wellbeing.  

According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 8 people around the world live with a mental health condition. These issues are often exacerbated by stress in the workplace, making it the responsibility of every employer to be aware of mental health and ways to alleviate stress at work. 

Keep reading to explore: 

  • What is the difference between stress and mental health conditions? 
  • What are the most common types of mental health conditions? 
  • 3 ways you can help alleviate stress and improve mental wellbeing in the workplace? 

The difference between stress and mental health conditions

First thing first: what’s the difference between stress and a mental health condition? Stress is when we feel overwhelmed by a specific task or thing, which often dissipates once that specific task or issue is completed or dealt with. For instance, you have a big presentation to give to your team at work and public speaking makes you very nervous. You feel very stressed leading up to the presentation and possibly during, but once it’s over, that stress goes away. 

Mental health conditions are described as mental or behavioural disturbances which are more chronic. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or due to factors in your immediate surroundings, such as family environment or dynamics, living or financial situation, or more. Living with this type of condition can be hard enough, without adding the stress that comes with a job on top of it. 

The most common types of health conditions

There are several different types of mental health conditions that many people suffer from. Let’s dive into the most common types so you know the tell-tale signs of any individual in the workplace who may be silently suffering:  

Anxiety

Anxiety, one of the most common mental health conditions in the world, is often described as a state of chronic worry or fear. There are many different types of anxiety which include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), agoraphobia which is the fear of being somewhere where you can’t escape easily, social anxiety, separation anxiety and many more. These different types of fear can make it difficult for people to complete everyday tasks and can lead to certain avoidance behaviours.  

Three people sitting at a table in an office

It’s important to note that experiencing anxiety in life is normal. These feelings are meant to protect us and alert us while in dangerous situations. The difference when dealing with anxiety as a mental health condition, however, is that these feelings of fear and worry are present even when you’re not in a life-threatening situation.  

Depression

Depression is when a person experiences chronic, deep feelings of sadness and despair. Little to no joy is found in life and a sense of fatigue and guilt may accompany this feeling. This can affect a person’s weight and appetite, as well as energy levels. Some people with depression may exhibit certain avoidance behaviours and even suicidal thoughts.  

It’s important to remember that you're not alone and help is available. Different forms of treatment do exist to help combat this mental health condition. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a balanced diet can help people with depression cope. Medication, accompanied by therapy is also another option.  

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is characterised by an obsessive, recurring thought that is usually alleviated by some sort of compulsion or action. For instance, germaphobia or the fear of germs is a form of contamination OCD, where a person has unreasonable thoughts of germs. These thoughts and fears are alleviated by washing their hands or showering. There are so many different types of OCD, ranging from those associated with symmetry and order to consistent checking and counting.  

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Another common mental health condition is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD have experienced a form of trauma in their lives which they have not fully recovered from. They are often transported back to that traumatic event by some sort of trigger as if they are still facing it now in the present. This can lead to withdrawal, where individuals avoid triggers that might bring on symptoms such as sadness, fear, and feelings of dissociation.  

3 ways you can help alleviate stress and improve mental wellbeing in the workplace

Fulfilling your job tasks can be stressful with tight deadlines or few resources, not to mention having to cope with a mental health condition on top of it all. There are many things employers can do to help alleviate this sense of stress and provide a greater sense of mental well-being in the office.  

Let’s explore the following three ways: 

1. Foster a safe and secure environment

Creating an environment where employees feel safe and secure can truly help to alleviate stress and improve mental wellbeing. How is this done? Foster an environment where employees feel safe enough to voice their opinions and concerns, take risks, and make mistakes, without the fear of negative consequences.  

People in an office meeting with one raising their hand

But that’s not all – it's critical that you take this feedback into consideration and show that you are truly listening to your employees. By valuing their feedback and allowing them to be courageous, you are showing your employees that their voices matter and that their wellbeing comes first.  

2. Provide support with internal mental health first aiders

Another way to provide support is by having internal mental health first aiders. Certain companies provide the opportunity for employees to receive training in mental health first aid, where they can learn to spot the signs of decline in mental health, how to talk about mental health and much more. These individuals can then act as a source of comfort to colleagues who may be struggling with mental health conditions. Employees can reach out to these specific individuals to talk about what they’re going through, helping them in their times of need. 

3. Host company wellness events and initiatives

Company wellness events and initiatives are another great way to help improve employee well-being. Just talking about it on a company level alone, can help employees feel less alone in their struggles. This can include meditation or mindfulness sessions with external experts, as well as mental health awareness sessions and outdoor activities. Different resources can also be provided to employees on this subject, including monetary wellness funds to seek counseling or therapy.  

The bottom line...

Coming together as a company to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, above job outcomes and results, can go a long way with your employees. Remember, happy employees who are put in an environment where they can thrive, not only help them improve their sense of mental health and wellbeing but will be more beneficial for the company as a whole.  

Remember no matter what you may be facing, help is available. If you believe you are suffering from a mental health condition, contact your doctor and a therapist for help. 


Author Dina Adlouni

Dina is a Content Marketing Manager at EcoOnline who has been writing about health and safety, ESG and sustainability, as well as chemical safety for the past four years. She regularly collaborates with internal subject matter experts to create relevant and insightful content.

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