Mental health at work has been talked about for decades, often in terms that are not very empathetic (e.g. “office sickness”). Nevertheless it’s a very important factor in daily life, since we all have a “mental health” as much as a “physical health” that musn’t be ignored when we go to work.

According to recent research by BVA Doxa for Mindwork, for example, 85% of Italian workers consider their general psychological well-being to be related to their well-being at work, and vice versa. Overseas, the situation isn’t very different: a survey by Mental Health America found that 83% of interviewees (around 5,000 people in total) felt “emotionally drained” by work.

The biggest burden comes from burnout symptoms, which have become increasingly common since the start of the pandemic, regardless of one’s work location (office, home or coworking). Fatigue, irritability, insomnia, difficulty in establishing relations and digestive problems are some of the symptoms.

Focusing on people is one of the most important aspects for HR. Most of our time is spent at work and identity itself is partly linked to what we ‘do’.  Work plays a vital role in emotional, social and physical wellbeing, but can sometimes cause distress or exacerbate a pre-existing one.

Ignoring the importance of mental health can lead to serious consequences in many different fields.  If underestimated, it can easily lead to more employees falling ill, to a lower efficiency and, due to emotional issues related to the working environment, to talented employees leaving.

On the other hand, a company that is able to promote and maintain a high level of physical, psychological and social satisfaction for its employees is undoubtedly run by a management that has been able to initiate a radical change in doing business, by putting people at the centre of every action.

Companies that pay more attention to the psychological health of their workers can rely on people who are more productive, more open to discussion and able to make important decisions more effectively.

How to (better) manage psychological well-being

Attention to mental health must come first and foremost from corporate: Human Resources, if any, or management, in more limited situations.

Here are some useful activities and initiatives to implement.

  1. Talking and listening
    As mentioned above, mental health should not be stigmatised or ignored. A simple discussion can bring to light issues that are not obvious to the managerial sphere, but which are daily occurrences for those involved in the operational side of work.
  2. Implementing “mental days”
    Several companies (mainly in the US) are introducing, as a benefit, additional days off to take care of one’s mental health (e.g. during periods of high stress).
  3. Investing in supplementary health insurance
    An agreement with a psychologist (or an associate firm) can remove the cost barrier that inhibits many people from seeking help.
  4. Analyse behaviour
    Managers (and HR) need to pay more and more attention to the dynamics between people in the office: detecting toxic behaviour can help stop them quickly, thereby improving the well-being of the rest of the workforce.

There are also many other initiatives being pursued by companies, ranging from lunchtime yoga sessions to meditation rooms, mindfulness sessions and specific mindfulness programmes. These initiatives are laudable, but they don’t get to the heart of the problem: listening is the only way to really help people.

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