In the milieu of the modern workplace, where creativity, collaboration, and caffeine-powered brainstorming sessions reign supreme, mental health is the mechanism that keeps everything in motion, write Joshua Mills, talent manager, and Alison Palmer, head of human resources at Dariel Software.
Mental resilience is what can turn stressful days into productive ones and seemingly impossible tasks into stellar achievements. The right mix of mental health strategies isn’t just a workplace perk but a necessity.
Taking responsibility for employee mental wellness shouldn’t be seen as a moral obligation for employers, but rather a thoughtful choice that provides both support and compassion to staff members, while acknowledging that every employee has different needs.
Meeting these needs is one of the most effective ways to show individuals that they matter to the business, which will ultimately enhance productivity and performance, making a better place for everyone to work.
The state of mental health in South Africa
Findings from the Second Annual Mental State of the World Report 2021 by Sapien Labs underscore a serious issue: South Africa is in the midst of a mental health crisis.
The statistics reveal a distressing rise in individuals grappling with mental health challenges, surging from 28,5% to 36% in 2020. This scale of the challenge shows the critical need for urgent action to address mental health concerns.
Despite pervasive mental health issues in South Africa, a persistent stigma shrouds mental illnesses, deterring individuals from seeking the necessary help they need.
The link between lack of support and high staff turnover
Insufficient support and awareness concerning mental health wellbeing are unequivocally tied to elevated staff turnover rates.
When organisations overlook the impact of employee wellbeing, distress and discontent levels surge which compels staff to seek a more conducive and supportive work environment elsewhere.
Timely intervention is essential to identify distress signals and avert potential harm, not only on a personal level but also in terms of business sustainability.
Impact of a stressful work environment on mental health
Mental health wellbeing is an individual’s capacity to cope with life’s daily stressors. The workplace significantly influences this wellbeing due to the substantial time people spend engaged with work. Since these struggles don’t simply vanish when people step into the workplace, mental health issues inevitably impact their professional engagements.
A 2019 study by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) substantiates this, indicating that a significant 75% of individuals with depression in South Africa have felt adverse effects on their work. A stressful work environment can exacerbate stress levels and negatively impact an employee’s mental health, emphasising the need for employer intervention
Strategies for a positive workplace culture: stop glamourising ‘the grind’
Companies with positive workplace cultures are magnets for top talent. There are various mechanisms for organisations to foster a positive culture, including Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), cultivating a supportive atmosphere, and offering flexibility in work settings and schedules.
These steps are geared towards eradicating burnout culture, a menace defined by relentless stress and excessive workload. Together, these initiatives help create a workplace where employees are not only understood and appreciated but feel profoundly supported.
Training and skills development can play a pivotal role in engaging employees with their work, providing a sense of progress in their careers. When employees lack opportunities for training and upskilling, they may perceive stagnation, which can have a detrimental impact on their mindset and overall mental wellbeing.
Access to information equips employees with the knowledge and resources needed to navigate the workplace effectively, further ensuring a more secure and supportive environment.
Work-related stress and work-life balance: impact on talent
High pressure working conditions and an imbalance between work and personal life will significantly influence an employee’s decision to stay or leave their job. Striking a healthy balance between work and personal life is essential to prevent burnout and maintain job satisfaction.
Organisations that help employees to correctly prioritise this balance are more likely to retain their staff and reduce turnover rates. Employees are more likely to remain in a workplace that supports their wellbeing and a supportive culture conveys that the organisation values its employees beyond their roles, fostering loyalty and dedication.
Companies that prioritise employee wellbeing not only retain their staff but also attract top talent in their quest for a nurturing work environment.
Creating an inclusive workplace by acknowledging differences
In addition to being effective methods of boosting productivity and retaining talent, workplace mental healthcare is actually an important facet of diversity.
In the same way that race, gender, sexual orientation, and other measures of diversity are a source of strength for companies, organisations can promote employee inclusion by fostering cultures that celebrate openness, vulnerability, and respect, establishing a workplace that prioritises psychological safety and provides an environment where neurodiverse individuals can flourish, without the need to mask their differences.
To create an inclusive workplace suitable for all, including Millennials and Gen Z, organisations should reconsider different environmental factors, including ergonomics. This involves reimagining the traditional open-plan office layout to design areas conducive to focused work, collaboration, and relaxation.
By giving priority to employee wellbeing and inclusivity, while accommodating their diverse requirements, companies can attract a varied workforce, simply by promoting a strong sense of belonging and active engagement.