Mental Wellness Promotes Productivity, Happiness and a Meaningful Workplace Experience
There are a variety of definitions of mental wellness. In a piece by Mike Nichols posted in Opinion, he addresses one definition by Dr. Jane Myers of the University of North Carolina. Dr. Myers, one of the founders of the concept of mental wellness, describes it as a holistic approach in which mind, body and spirit are integrated in a purposeful manner with a goal of living life more fully, achieving optimal health and well-being and a concern for optimal functioning.
Nichols adds to the definition by including self-awareness, self-understanding and self-focusing so that a healthy balance can be maintained in all areas of life. In other words, mental wellness can be likened to mental well-being and should be viewed from the perspective of living a happier, more meaningful life.
Mental wellness in the workplace refers to the organizational systems in place to ensure employees are treated with respect, kindness, fairness and valued for who they are and their contributions to a positive workplace culture.
According to a study by Culture Amp, depression and anxiety have significant economic impact; the estimated cost to the global economy is $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. Harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health. The good news is for every $1 put into scaled up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
There are many risk factors for mental health that may be present in the working environment. The study reports that most risks relate to interactions between type of work, the organizational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees and the support available for employees to carry out their work.
Specifically, the following risks to mental health in the workplace are identified in the study:
- Inadequate health and safety policies;
- Poor communication and management practices;
- Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
- Low levels of support for employees;
- Inflexible working hours; and
- Unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
Organizations must be committed to employee well-being and build a culture to support it. This means putting resources into well-being programs, involve employees in decision-making especially when it impacts their well-being, have the leadership model respect, kindness, and fair treatment of all employees, build challenges that enhance self-fulfillment and create ethical expectations for the organization with respect to promoting positive aspects of well-being and controlling for the negative. This may include providing an anonymous hot line for employees to raise issues of concern that affect their well-being.
A well-being survey conducted by Culture Amp reports both good news and the not so good news. First for the good news:
- 85% of those surveyed feel what they do at work is worthwhile.
- 79% feel that they receive support from people around them.
Now for the bad news:
- 48% feel fresh and rested for work each day.
- 48% feel they can’t accomplish what they need to within normal work hours.
It could be that about one-half of employees surveyed are suffering from job burnout, a negative feature of wellness in the workplace. Work/life balance initiatives may help here. One factor that needs to be addressed is the effect of social media on wellness.
Social media activities in the workplace can cause dismay and produce negative consequences for wellness. Imagine if an employee is bullied on social media by co-workers. This will create serious problems for wellness. How can that employee be expected to interact with others, i.e., bullies, in a positive way? Cyberbullying, ghosting and trolling are just some of the examples of activities in the digital age that can impair mental health as I discuss in my book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning: Transforming Your Life Through Ethical Behavior.
To create a culture of wellness in the workplace, employers need to set an ethical tone at the top that everyone in the organization is supposed to promote well-being of themselves and others. Organizations should develop strategies to enhance wellness, policies to carry them out and the systems necessary to monitor compliance.