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Advantages of mental health prevention programs in the workplace

Mental health is recognized as an important component of health throughout a person's life. It does not focus solely on mental health problems (including mental illness) but also addresses the positive aspects of mental health. This is because the ability of a person to function properly in the emotional, cognitive, and social spheres is a prerequisite for good health and well-being. 

The places where we spend time - working, living, or resting - play a key role in maintaining and improving our mental health and preventing disorders. Most people spend about one-third of their day at work. Therefore, the workplace is an important place to promote mental health. Of course, mental health is affected not only by the environment we live in but also by the way we live, think, and feel. Thus, to a certain extent, individuals can promote and influence their mental health.

Why good mental health at the workplace is really important for your company

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2001) defines positive mental health as "well-being in which individuals realize their capabilities, can cope with the stresses of daily life, work productively, and act for their community." The concept of positive mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. 

A person who enjoys such health can recognize and use his or her abilities, enjoy life, and cope with situations that challenge him or her (Lehtinen, 2008). Positive mental health can also be understood as the ability/capacity of an individual to perceive, understand and interpret their environment, to adapt/change when needed, and to communicate with others. Such well-being enables us to cope successfully with everyday situations and contributes to the effective functioning of individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. A person with positive mental health is more able to think and act on their own decisions, which contributes to their emotional and physical development (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Therefore, such well-being is expected to help reduce absenteeism in the workplace and keep productivity high.

Stress, anxiety, reduced motivation and work performance, problems with organization and concentration.

These are just some of the effects that workers are facing more and more frequently lately. Even though mobile work brings many advantages, working at home, far away from the office and colleagues, in isolation, and with the feeling of not belonging to a team, can also become a challenge. 

The situation we find ourselves in today is a challenge that we must overcome. Around the clock, we receive a wide variety of information, often negative and conflicting opinions, which are published on social media. We are trying to combine our home and work responsibilities on an ongoing basis. In addition, the situation is changing dynamically and leads to our anxiety.

It is also a challenge for employers, who should take, special care of the mental health of employees during this period. It is our mental condition that determines not only our satisfaction with life, but also our performance, and most of all it affects the overall resilience of the body. And while working at the home office, even the most committed supervisor, may happen not to notice the symptoms indicating the employee's problems.

This is an existing problem, affecting all types and levels of employment. International institutions are also reacting to this state of affairs. In 2022, the new classification of diseases of the World Health Organization will come into force.It will include provisions allowing doctors to diagnose professional burnout (understood as the feeling of energy deprivation or exhaustion, reduced professional effectiveness, or experiencing negative emotions related to work), and to issue sick leaves to people suffering from it.

Why ignoring mental health at the workplace will cost you time and money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. But WHO has also found that every dollar spent on treating common mental health problems leads to improved health, bringing in $4 in productivity. Approximately one-third of the mental health cost burden is related to productivity losses, including unemployment, disability, and lower work performance. For example, in one study conducted by von Dewa et al. workerswith severe depressive episodes were were significantly less productive than those with mild or moderate depressive episodes, and a significant proportion of those with moderate (57 %) or severe (40 %) depression did not use any treatment. 

It is estimated that one in four people experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime. Research in UK companies has found that one in six employees struggle with mild to moderate mental health disorders. It is estimated that employers incur a cost of ₤355(€420) per employee due to this (data after Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health). Mental ill-health, for example, results in more sick leave. Additionally, poor well-being results in staff turnover, unproductive attendance at work, poorer performance, less creativity, and lack of commitment to work. Valuable skills and knowledge of employees are less used or even lost.

Employees' psychological resources due to Covid-19 spread, restrictions, and remote working are heavily exploited. Therefore, it is worth taking care of psychological support for employees. Undoubtedly, the long-term impact of information about danger, changes, and uncertainty affects our lives negatively. After all, it affects our most important assets like our health, loved ones, and livelihood. 

The challenge of combining personal life and work in the same space with family members is an additional element that puts a strain on our ability to recover psychologically. According to a UN report released in May 2020, the impact of the Covid 19 epidemic on people's mental health requires urgent action. These actions should aim to prevent and offset the long-term effects of a mental burden. Predictions show an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders across the population.

How badly mental health is affecting your employees

Employees strive to cope with their responsibilities through mental mobilization, sometimes despite difficult conditions and uncertainty. However, prolonged states of tension exhaust their physical resources. This is when stress appears and with it problems with sleep, intrusive thoughts, and difficulty in quieting the mind, difficulties in concentration. A prolonged sense of being out of control intensifies the experience of anxiety. Such a prolonged sense of a threat causes our body to tense up our muscles. We feel this as discomfort and uncomfortable tension in certain areas of our body. There is a need for greater mobility and to do something to relieve this energy.

In addition, our mind secondarily reads this tension in the body as legitimate (i.e., a readiness to fight or flight)and therefore intensifies the anxiety as an emotional evaluation of our situation. This looping mechanism can make it difficult to find constructive coping strategies for dealing with the stress symptoms that have already arisen. The body supports itself by blocking the regeneration of the immune or reproductive system thus the ability to protect itself from pathogens diminishes.

Constant tension and discomfort deplete mental resources, increasing alertness to any stimuli that appear around. And of such, it is not difficult, especially when we are forced to spend more time with household members, for them to experience similar emotions as we do. Impatience and overstimulation make us burst with anger or irritation in situations of minor importance. Such situations further strain the sense of comfort, in relationships with loved ones. In this way, the environment, which was a place of regeneration and rest after work, ceases to fulfill its role. That is why it is worth investing in psychological support for employees.

Mental health-promoting programs and their advantages in your workplace

Workplaces that are successful in promoting mental health promote positive relationships among employees and between employees and the employer. They foster a sense of community, identification, and belonging within their community. In addition, they foster a climate where the professional community can safely discuss mental health issues, and where individual members are not stigmatized.

When we engage in communication and dissemination of mental health promotion ideas , we tend to address several different contexts simultaneously - depending on the characteristics of the group of people we want to engage. This process is crucial because even the best-planned program will not be effective if it is not understood and accepted by the target groups. It is very important to get the employees involved. At the same time, it is important to remember that mental health is a very sensitive topic and it is important to create an atmosphere of trust. This means that one-sided communication where people are simply informed about "important issues" will not work. People must know that there are many benefits to participating in a mental health promotion program.

No mental health promotion program can succeed without good interpersonal relationships with staff. In this case, the positive relationships alone are supportive of mental health. To change the social environment in a way that is healthy for employees, it is worth taking care of your mental health. Someone who experiences severe occupational stress cannot effectively support the mental health of others, and can even sometimes be a negative influence.

In the U.S. and Canada, so-called employee assistance programs (EAPs) have been in place for decades, initially aimed at helping people who abuse alcohol or drugs, and in later years at preventing mental disorders (through referrals to specialized facilities, workplace counseling, and individual case management). More recently, the goal of EAPs has increasingly been to help people cope with stress at work and to promote positive mental health (J. Santa-Barbara, 1984).

An interesting one-and-a-half-year prevention and promotion program was implemented in the workplace by Felner et al. (1994) The goal of the program, which involved 191 parents aged 23-to 52, was to reduce the level of stress experienced by them and to change attitudes that increase the risk of substance abuse. Positive outcomes, both immediate post-program and longer-term (after 30 months) were greater for those who systematically participated in the program. Moreover, the positive outcomes were not limited to parents (who had reduced levels of stress, irritability, and depression), but also affected their children, who showed improved ability to refuse and resist pressure, a decrease in behavior problems, and a greater willingness to use social support.

Companies that have chosen to implement programs aimed at mental health prevention report benefits of five times the investment or $1,800 of $100-$400 invested annually The introduction of a stress management program in one U.S. hospital resulted in a 50% reduction in medication dosing errors and 70% fewer formal patient claims for compensation. Another example is EDF, a British energy provider, who by providing psychological support to employees and training managers to recognize the signs of mental health disorders, saw savings of ₤228,000(€270,000) per year with an increase in employee satisfaction from 36 to 68 percent.

Prevention of mental health disorders at work is possible, and when they do occur, various forms of treatment are available to return to normal functioning. Only about 1 in 50 cases are severe enough to result in exclusion or hospitalization. In the remaining cases, it is possible to carry out everyday tasks with the appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological support. Adequate support and assistance may be less costly than losing out on reduced capacity or financing the recruitment, training, and adjustment of a new employee.

When running a business, some steps can be taken to address the psychological well-being of employees and to help deal with any psychological distress that occurs. Many of these can also have other, additional benefits beyond mental health.

It is also important to help employees develop mental health skills. These include coping with stress and emotions, communicating and building relationships, and exercising the mind.

Diligence and efficiency are among the greatest strengths of an employee, regardless of the type of function performed. To achieve such an effect, it is necessary not only the skills resulting from experience but also motivation and concentration, which are associated with a mental condition.

Take care of your employees and they will take care of your company. 

Taking care of the mental health of employees will certainly contribute to improving the quality of work, which in the long run will translate into profits for the entire company. However, this is not the only benefit of such action. You will soon notice that the raised morale will affect the friendly atmosphere in the workplace. Duty will become a pleasure, and employees will gain a higher level of satisfaction and favorable conditions for establishing business relationships. This will also increase their loyalty to the company.

Actions resulting from care for the health of employees also have measurable benefits. With the right measures you can reduce the incidence of sick leave - your employees will be healthier and therefore more available and reliable.

It's human nature to care about your employees' health, but funding employee health is a strategic investment that is critical to your business thriving. Use our tips to initiate actions that will help your employees' health, productivity, and loyalty!

We can help you with that by offering our Herzog Method to your employees. Created by Dagmar Herzog training program consists of powerful emotional exercises that reduce anxiety and stress, boost self-confidence, and stimulate metabolism. The uniqueness of it is that the spoken visualizations and the film music are composed especially for those Harmonies. Together, they trigger strong emotions in the listener and lead quickly and permanently to a positive change in behavior. 

Recent events have made everyone, including employees and employers, aware of the importance of health, including mental health, and how it affects all areas of life, both personal and professional. Many of the organizational changes in workplaces and sanitation standards implemented during the pandemic will stay with us forever. A permanent part of these changes is also becoming employee mental health, which employers will need to consider as an important part of caring for the company and the people it employs.

 

Alexandra Knebel

Aleksandra Knebel

Aleksandra supports the team with her years of professional experience as a psychological counselor. After receiving her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Middlesex University and her certification in Humanistic and Psychodynamic Counseling from Goldsmith's University in London, she worked extensively with children. In addition, she has been able to build experience in psychological supervision and group therapy by working with intervention teams. Aleksandra now wants to bring her training and experience to LUMEUS to help children and adults.

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