When Shalini reached office that morning, all she wanted was a few moments of quietness to gather herself after all that had happened the previous night. She couldn’t get this privilege, though. To her utter dismay, a pile of files landed on her table with a call from her authority to wrap them up in an hour and report. Jostling with the thoughts within, she managed to work on all the files and get them sent. Within minutes, she was called by her superior and given a mouthful for the shabby work and issued a Notice of Show Cause.
Shalini’s story is the story of many working men and women. Physical well-being impacts mental health and mental well-being impacts physical health, though physical fitness is not always an indicator of mental fitness. So often, we focus on our physical health not realising that mental health is also a part and parcel of ‘health’.
For people who work outside home, the workplace is where they spend a large part of their time. Hence, mental health in the workplace ought to be important.
What are the threats to sound mental health in the workplace?
- Long work hours without breaks
- Partial/ unjust favours rendered to others at one’s expense
- Labelling and gossip
- Spying on personal life and leaking stories at the workplace
- Personal ill-health
- A disturbed family life
- Insensitive authorities
- Lack of adequate rest
- Abysmal work area conditions (poor lighting, stinky surroundings, dirty walls/ rooms, etc.)
- Sexual harassment
- Life threats
- Lack of job security (frequent lay-offs)
- Underpayment/ Irregular payment
- Pressure to conform to the work culture at the cost of one’s individuality
What happens when workplace mental health is not emphasized upon?
Efficiency and productivity at work reduces – Work performance dips. Energetic confident performance gives way to sluggish below-the-mark outputs.
Irritable temperament develops – Ever observed a colleague/ subordinate/ superior being up in arms about something or the other all the time? Well, it is not just the behavior that needs to be modified there but the underlying cause needs addressing.
Psychological disorders crop up – Most cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorders (GAD) in working people develop overtime due to workplace demands.
Psychosomatic symptoms – Body pains with no medical reasons, persistent headaches, and nausea are just a few of the physiological manifestations of psychological causes.
Unwanted relationships – Having to spend a large chunk of time away from loved ones creates space for unwanted relationships to develop which ultimately causes disturbance in one’s personal, familial and work life.
Addictions – People take to alcohol or other addictions to douse certain workplace flares – humiliation from the boss, lack of job security, etc.
So, then how can mental health in the workplace be addressed?
Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of our mental health. We need to take care of our minds like we take care of our children. There are different things that work differently for people but here are some guidelines that can be followed to ensure that we don’t lose it.
Take time out for your own hobbies – This is really important. For some people reading or writing can be stress-buster for others it could be cooking. Somebody might enjoy meditation while somebody else can enjoy dance. Whatever it is that works for you – invest at least an hour each day on your hobbies.
Give priority to self and learn to say “NO” – Well, this is the toughest thing to do – saying NO to your boss. Take a step back and think that if you work for an organization, where you don’t have an option to say a NO – you deserve a better workplace.
Relook at the definition of success – For many of us, the definition of success is to reach a certain level of organizational ladder or to have a certain amount of bank balance. Such a definition of success puts us in a rat race that we can never win. Relook at what success means to you. Is it being a CEO or is it being a successful parent? Is it having X amount of money in the account or is it being a happy person? Decide for yourself.
Build a support system – It scares me when I see the number of people (apparently successful) giving up their lives. I wonder why they didn’t have a support system. We can never build our support system when we are stressed. We need to build it when we are happy (normal). Have a set of friends who can be your “Agony aunts”. It is really important to have people who can pull you out of a stressful situation.
Learn to identify when you are stressed – This is very challenging. So, have a checklist of stress. If you mark most of the items in that checklist as YES, then you need to take a break. The checklist might have things listed above as symptoms of bad mental health.
Of course, each individual is different and these guidelines might not be enough to cover everything. Follow what makes you happy, don’t follow a rat race. Don’t wait for that heart attack to give you an alarm of your situation. Look at it right now and make it better right away.