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State of Mind: How Mental Health Affects Workplace Productivity

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty
desk a sign?”
~ Albert Einstein

May is Mental Health Month.

It is a time when professionals indulge in dialogue surrounding mental health issues. It is also a time when the stigma around the issue decreases a tad bit during this period each year.

The most common issue affecting mental wellness is – Stress!

The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized stress as the epidemic of the 21st century.

What about stress at the workplace? A lot of factors in the workplace affect employee mental wellbeing.

While work is good for employee mental health, a negative environment, hierarchy, relationships and work pressure are few factors that tip the scales of mental balance of an employee.

Mental well-being impacts employee performance which affects productivity which affects profits.

To put it simply, employee mental health’s economic impact just cannot be ignored.

In this blog you will understand the correlation between employee mental health and productivity.

You will also get an overview of how to promote mental health at work and how an employee communications app supports this process.

Testing Times

The world is neck deep in the COVID situation that has been playing out for sometime now.

According to a recent Gallup study, 26% of people within the 18 to 44 year age group have reported that their mental health is already affected by COVID restrictions.

Around 37% Americans say they can follow social distancing guidelines only for a few more weeks or months till their state of mind and finances start to suffer.

The same Gallup poll states that Americans who are working (18%) are more likely to witness adverse effects on their mental and emotional health than those that are not working (12%) during the COVID restrictions.

This period has seen a dramatic rise in remote workers.

People working remotely can experience loneliness and isolation. Managers can handle this by focusing on employee engagement and well-being.

To make matters worse, the pandemic has been an ongoing issue.

World leaders, frontline workers and scientists are working around the clock to resolve the situation. However, there’s no telling exactly when this disruption will come to an end.

The uncertainty surrounding this situation is a cause for concern, and many people are worried about job security, finances and the safety of their near and dear ones. The road ahead looks foggy to say the least.

Why (and How) Mental Health Matters at the Workplace?

Mental illness costs America $190 billion in lost earnings every year.

Depression and anxiety have a lasting economic impact the estimated cost of which is USD 1 trillion per year in losses from productivity.

While unemployment is a major risk factor for mental illness, various factors at the workplace can be held accountable for their impact on a person’s state of mind.

Bullying and harassment at work, a prevalent yet under-reported issue, deeply influence an employee’s mental health and productivity.

A negative work environment comes in many forms. However, its impact on a worker’s physical and mental states cannot be overlooked.

There are many factors in the work environment that put a person’s mental wellbeing at risk.

Some of them are:

  • Poor communication and management practices
  • Lack of support for workers
  • Rigid work hours
  • Poor physical work environment
  • High workload
  • Bullying and psychological harassment
  • Lack of cohesion and engagement

Some jobs come with high personal risk, for example first responders in the COVID crisis are constantly under risk at their job.

Fire fighters, military personnel, manufacturing line workers and so on are constantly in the line of fire because of the nature of their job. This also has an impact on their mental health at work.

These issues can translate to absenteeism and lowered productivity amongst workers which directly affects company profits.

To make matters worse, metrics from countries around the world indicate that mental issues are a major reason why employees drop out of work. In the UK, almost 30% to 40% of sick leave is due to mental issues.

Workplaces that focus on promoting mental wellbeing are in a better position to increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and increase overall turnover as a result.

Building a Healthy (Productive) Workplace

There are many steps organizations can take to support mental health and productivity in the workplace.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), just depression leads to 200 million fewer workdays per year.

Companies need to create a solid game plan to help employees nurture their minds in the office.

In order to support worker well-being, Google adapts an interesting practice of detachment (from work). To promote their well-being culture, Google advises its employees to disengage from work as a routine for around 20 minutes to two hours each day.

Unilever has a global health initiative through which the company lets managers arrange workshops to identify signs of mental health problems.

Some other ways to promote a healthy workplace are:

Organizational Policies

One of the policies could include routine interventions to call out distress and drug use amongst workers.

Enforcing strict policies against sexual and racial harassment is important.

Regularly conduct career supporting programs like on the job training and other motivational initiatives.

Give employees a role in decision making processes so they feel a sense of belonging and validation.

Work Culture

Creating a supportive environment of collaboration and bonding is important.

A culture that breeds competition and one-upmanship will fall through eventually.

Management matters! Ultimately supportive, encouraging and listening managers are the difference between a healthy and a toxic work culture.

Work-life-balance and flexi-time are other ways to improve employee well-being.

Appreciation matters! Recognizing good performance in employees goes a long way in improving morale and overall employee sentiment.

Off late, organizations are adopting apps that support mental health in the workplace. These mental health apps are reasonably priced or free in many cases.

Empathy Matters

Finally, it’s important to recognize employees more as human beings and less as resources.

Referring to people by name rather than as resources or workers is a good first step.

If time permits, it helps to develop a system to allow workers air grievances and share opinions in a trusted environment.

Resilience Training

Whether it is a public health crisis or a financial crisis, coping with and recovering from stress is important.

Hiring well-being professionals to conduct workshops that equip employees with tools that can help them cope with acute and chronic stress is a good start.

Encouraging healthy habits like exercise, yoga, meditation and healthy eating are also ways to create a healthy workplace.

Investing in employee well-being is worth it in the long run, as well-adjusted employees are 12% more productive than unwell ones.

Remote Worker Well-being

COVID has revamped many companies into remote work operations.
How long this will last, only time will tell.

Until then, we need to take care of our remote workers or risk losing crucial income due to dips in productivity.

These measures will help in the long run, as a distributed workforce was already prevalent in many sectors worldwide.

Gyms are closed and venturing out might not be the safest thing at the moment. But the link between exercise and the mind, and employee mental wellness and productivity, cannot be denied.

Encourage remote workers to workout at home. Doing squats, push-ups, crunches or planks are a good way to warm up. Converting this into a company wide challenge or contest can give them added impetus to get started.

Yoga also should help. Isometric, anti-gravity exercises, or yoga, are a great way to get the blood circulation going and keep the mind centered. This is also a healthy way to start the day.

Getting sun exposure during safe hours of a day is also important.
Vitamin D is something that develops in the body from sun exposure, and is important for a good mood and hormone balance.

Employee Apps Support Mental Well-being

Employee Apps are tools that many companies use to foster secure communication amongst teams.

An employee collaboration tool keeps a workforce connected, making remoteness or workforce distribution a non-issue.

Employee apps also help HR folks and comms professionals create an engaged workforce.

Having access to an instant messaging platform specifically for work helps a distressed worker reach out to a colleague or manager in times of need.

Supporting employee mental health at work starts with an internal comms tool.

Company wide communication options on a mobile intranet helps companies constantly communicate and engage with the entire workforce.
Companies can also get instant feedback from workers.

Surveys and polls can be conducted regularly to gather information on physical, mental and emotional well-being of employees.

Employee mental health survey questions can be sent out periodically to gather useful intel on the situation.

Data from employee mental health surveys should be put to good use by taking steps needed to improve worker wellbeing.

Employee apps have microapp integration options. This feature can be used to integrate the platform with mental health apps for the workplace.

Headspace, an app for guided meditations, is a good tool to integrate as a mental wellness strategy.

How can Foster a Healthy Workplace is a secure, mobile-first employee collaboration platform.

Using Groupe’s user-friendly interface, admins can connect and communicate with employees instantly.

Secure file transfer features allow for crucial health related policies to be sent out periodically. has options to conduct surveys and polls whereby crucial employee mental health survey questions can be regularly sent out to the entire workforce.
The results from the survey can be used to design employee mental health programs on a periodic basis.

The calendar app in can be used to schedule these employee mental health programs. Those interested can RSVP their responses.

Mental health awareness happens through constant communication and this can be done through company wide communication options on the platform.

There are many apps that support mental wellness at work.

The microapp feature allows for integrations with mental health apps that help promote well-being at the workplace.

Group chats and one-on-one chats also help employees in distress.

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