Even though our jobs are usually our biggest sources of stress, being employed is actually very beneficial for our mental health. The work we do every day connects us to the broader world, and it provides us with a rewarding sense of purpose and belonging. Also, the challenges brought on by the typical work day, while mildly stressful, actually serve us by activating our brains, and forcing us to use our problem solving skills and resourcefulness. People who regularly “exercise” their brains throughout their lives with work or hobbies have lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health illnesses. So think of the challenges of work like daily brain workouts!
Although being employed is supposed to be a great thing for our mental health, a negative, or toxic working environment can undo all of the benefits. The World Health Organization provides this list of factors that can turn the workplace into a toxic environment that’s more harmful than beneficial for its employees’ mental health.
- Inadequate health and safety policies;
- Poor communication and management practices;
- Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
- Low levels of support for employees;
- Inflexible working hours; and
- Unclear tasks or organizational objectives.
With these harmful factors in mind, we’ve come up with 4 strategies that employers can use to improve the experience employees have with your company. They may not apply to all industries; however, you can creatively modify these ideas to fit in at your unique work space.
Establish a Protocol for Substance Abuse
Using drugs or alcohol in the workplace is a major problem, and its quite common too. Substance abuse leads to dangerous accidents, decreased productivity, conflict, absenteeism, and a negative work environment. Employers who aren’t prepared may respond to an employee’s substance abuse ineffectively. Punishing, or firing an employee who’s misusing drugs and alcohol is not the best thing for that employee or your company, and it can be more expensive in the long run. Supporting employees while they recover from a substance abuse problem can be more cost effective because hiring and training someone new is a costly, and slow process.
The best way to support your employees and keep the company moving along is to support them when they need help, and provide treatment so they can get back to work. Consult with an intervention specialist about what kind of options are appropriate and, if necessary, which inpatient drug rehabilitation centers will make the most sense with your health plan and the individual employee’s needs.
Communicate Consciously with Employees
Sometimes, employers may not be aware that the way they’re communicating with their employees is causing unnecessary stress, anxiety, and insecurity which can not only hurt the employee, but it can also hurt the whole company. Workers that are constantly anxious and fearful about losing their job may produce sub-par work and refrain from taking initiative. It’s better to encourage employees, and communicate effectively without causing unnecessary stress.
- Give praise: When a task is well done, acknowledge that! Your employees will get a better understanding of what you’re looking for, and feel more secure about their place in the company.
- Embrace failure: Although it’s easy to get upset when something doesn’t work, try to be understanding. If an employee fails, acknowledge their efforts and remember that failure is a normal part of life; it happens! Discuss what factors led to the issue so the same failure doesn’t happen again next time.
- When giving constructive feedback to employees, try to be specific, timely, and positive in the way you communicate. The quicker and more specifically you discuss problems with your employees, the easier the resolution.
- Express gratitude: A simple thank you goes a long way. Don’t forget to remind your employees how valuable their contribution is to the company once in a while.
Receive Employee Feedback
Having no say in company decisions can be frustrating for employees. Especially when those decisions directly affect employees’ lives, and the work they’re doing. Giving employees a little more power to make decisions will combat apathy, disinterest, boredom, and frustration, and encourage creative thinking and a greater personal investment in the company which will improve the quality of the work you receive.
Collect feedback from your group; ask them what ideas they have, and if there are things about the workplace they’d like to improve. Electronic survey tools are a good way to collect opinions about any specific upcoming decision. For general suggestions, simply invite your employees to contribute their ideas as they come and remind them that their opinions are always welcome.
An easy way to bring more interest and joy into the workplace is by changing the way you do meetings. Instead of getting together during usual working hours, try doing a lunch meeting where the office provides a special meal to bring everyone together. Instead of the typical fare of donuts and coffee, try something that will get the group excited. Think: takeout from the new Thai place, or fresh bagels with yummy fillings.
Lunch meetings have a celebratory, relaxed feel, which can encourage employees to more readily participate and contribute their thoughts and ideas to the group. Also, providing a special lunch will make employees feel more appreciated; it’s a kind gesture, and also a sign that you care about their experience.
The simple steps we make to engage our employees, and support their mental well-being will go a long way in terms of workplace atmosphere, productivity, and your company’s reputation. Consider trying out these 4 ideas in your workplace, and watch your employees flourish.
Michael Zhou is a Senior VP of Business Intelligence Development and has assisted the Fortune 1000 company with expertise in the web as a whole, including ground-zero marketing efforts that benefit both consumer and vendor. He is also contributor on Esprittoday.