The average human spends almost 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime. And while it would be naive to think that every one of those hours is spent productively, positively and with a sense of achievement and fulfilment, it’s an awfully long time to spend feeling the complete opposite.  

With the conversation around employee mental health and wellbeing being louder than ever, forward thinking companies understand that a stressed out, burnt out workforce is not going to be a productive one.

Quiet quitting – where employees are checking out and only doing the bare minimum or ‘working to wage’ – is on the rise, as people seek to protect their mental health and regain some semblance of work-life balance.

As a business leader, the onus is on you to ensure that your teams are engaged and productive, and for that to happen you need to look after their mental wellbeing. But what causes mental health problems in the workplace? And what can you do to eliminate them?

What causes mental health problems in the workplace?

There are a number of key factors that lead to issues with employee mental health. We’ll take a look at them, and see what steps you can take to either eradicate them or prevent them from happening in the first place.

1. An excessive workload 

Being swamped with work can lead to employee burnout, health issues, and conflict at home as partners or children bear the brunt of their family member’s anxiety or stress.

There are a number of ways employers can help manage the issue of too much work causing mental health problems. Helping employees better manage their time is one. Creating a quiet space in the office so that people aren’t distracted by the general hubbub that is typical of an open plan or busy workplace is another.

Stand up meetings each morning can also help to get everyone on the same page and make sure that priorities are clear. Crucially, these meetings must be a safe space to allow team members to talk without the fear of being labelled as someone struggling to cope. 

It should also be made clear that daily meetings aren’t to check up on what people have done and plan to do: as well as a catch up, they’re also forums to allow anyone who needs help with a task to ask for it without judgement. 

2. No work-life balance

In a similar vein, a lack of work-life balance is also something that is well known for causing mental health problems in the workplace. Indeed, as the recent YouGov survey that we jointly commissioned with mental health charity Solent Mind showed:

“Almost two thirds (72.6%) of those [surveyed] whose mental health has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, attribute their work-life as at least partly responsible.”

There are plenty of steps employers can take to help employees achieve a better work-life balance. Firstly, HR needs to make sure that there are boundaries in place and that managers aren’t emailing, calling or Whatsapping employees outside their work hours.

Offering employees the tools to better manage their work-life balance is something all businesses should look at doing. For example, PUSH’s workshops and mobile app help you to help your employees realise when they need to take a step back and regain some equilibrium.  

3. Job insecurity

Being in a state of uncertainty can be psychologically stressful. Job insecurity can have a huge impact on mental health problems at work. And now more than ever, thanks to the cost of living crisis we currently find ourselves in, people from all walks of life are suddenly grappling with the prospect of not being able to pay their bills this winter.

As the much-repeated expression goes, “We’re all only one or two pay packets away from homelessness” and this could be something that’s weighing heavily on some of your people.

Job insecurity, or the fear of job insecurity, is on the rise so what can you do as an employer to help employees who may be suffering from mental health problems caused by work – or, rather, the worry of not having a job to go to?

The keys here are trust, truth and transparency. Of course, you don’t want to worry employees unnecessarily, but by being honest and not hiding major concerns or changes will build trust and help to put minds at ease.

Empathy is also huge. Acknowledge that your people may have more anxiety than usual over job security and create a welcoming and safe space for them to discuss their worries. Meanwhile providing training and workshops will create a positive environment in which employees can build upon their skill sets and learn new coping strategies.

4. A toxic work environment

Knowing what causes mental health problems at work and understanding how to address those problems is essential if you want a happy and productive workforce. But no organisation is immune to toxicity rearing its ugly head and it’s something you’ll want to keep in check.

So what constitutes a toxic workplace?

Anywhere where any form of discrimination is present is toxic. If there is a culture of bullying, whether from the top down or within teams or departments – it’s toxic. 

If people are afraid, unhappy, being harassed or passed over for promotions due to their race, gender, sexuality or a disability, yep, the working environment is toxic. 

Toxic working environments are a contributing factor to work causing mental health issues and if you spot the signs of toxicity, you need to act swiftly to combat them.

But it can be tough knowing where to start. After all, much toxicity is ingrained and it becomes part of the company’s culture. 

This is where tackling the issue with a company audit can really help. For example, at PUSH our data-driven and user-led examination will find out how your people are feeling and give you insight into specific issues as well as provide you with the solutions to address them.

Create a safe space to address mental health and wellbeing issues at work

Mental wellbeing is a uniquely personal journey that we are all on. But as employers we need to step up and take some responsibility for our people, especially if we need to address the issue of work causing mental health problems.

That’s why PUSH has created our Safe Space session pack which includes three sessions each for managers and employees. Our aim is to support you in fostering an empathetic and supportive company culture.

PUSH and World Mental Health Day

Our Safe Space pack couldn’t have come at a better time either as Monday 10th October is World Mental Health Day, the theme of which ‘make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority‘ will resonate with many, as issues ranging from conflict to global warming to rising fuel prices continue to affect humans across the globe. 

If you’d like to take an active role in making your workplace a mentally safer environment where your employees are welcome to show up and speak up, book your sessions today.

Cate Murden
Cate is the Founder and CEO of PUSH. She created PUSH with the fierce belief that with the right tools, mindsets and behaviours, we could build better workplaces full of happy, healthy and high-performing individuals.

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