Mental health has taken centre stage, and is a much-discussed topic in the business world. It’s not that mental health wasn’t important before, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed this focus for the better. It has made organisations and individuals more aware of their own and others’ mental health. Mental health in the workplace isn’t something that employers or employees like to speak about, as, sadly, there remains a stigma attached to it. We can’t say that the stigma has completely disappeared, but it certainly has become more acceptable to talk about mental health to line managers and peers.

But what is mental health in the workplace?

In 2018, the World Health Organization defined mental health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The definition implies that mental health is a state of well-being, which is about how well you’re taking care of yourself, your mind, body, heart, and soul. It’s important to create awareness that mental health is not about being mentally healthy or not, because a person can be mentally unhealthy and display no signs of physical illness. The opposite can hold true, too, where a person has a physical illness, but a strong mental health status.

Mental health is about how you manage stress and challenges regularly, and what techniques you have developed to buffer against burnout, overworking, negative environments, or toxic people. As we spend two-thirds of our day in the workplace, it’s critical that we become aware of mental health. Our mental health drives performance, well-being, and thriving. Think about the things that drain you, and the activities that excite you. If the balance is skewed, and you engage in more draining activities, in the long run this will impact your mental well-being, physical health, performance, and interpersonal relationships. Also, mental health in the workplace is fluid, and fluctuates from day to day, or even moment to moment. You’ll have days where you’re in firefighting crisis mode, other days where you’re coping, just getting by, and then days where you’re thriving. It’s absolutely normal for your mental health to fluctuate, but what’s important is to notice how long you’re in certain modes, and what or who has contributed to it.

Mental health in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have, but a topic that leaders have to proactively approach with their teams, and hold open conversations. Organisations that wish to grow and remain competitive will do so by having a positive well-being and mental health culture.

Key take-aways of what mental health in the workplace is

  • Mental health is a state of well-being.
  • One can be mentally healthy, yet physically ill.
  • One can be physically ill, but mentally healthy.
  • Mental health impacts our well-being, productivity, and thriving.
  • Employers and employees are encouraged to talk about mental health.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

How would having mental health in the workplace impact on your well-being?

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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