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Addressing stress in the modern workplace

The right level of understanding and training around mental health is no longer a nice-to-have but necessary.”

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Workers at a poultry shop with a QR code for digital payment platform Paytm on display - Copyright AFP Bryan R. Smith
Workers at a poultry shop with a QR code for digital payment platform Paytm on display - Copyright AFP Bryan R. Smith

A recent assessment of work-place stress shows it is the most common reason people are experiencing ‘Sunday Scaries’. This assessment is timely given that World Mental Health Day took place during October 2022.

To gain an insight into such work-related mental health matters, Digital Journal caught up with two executives who have considerable experience about work-related matters.

First is Chelsea Coates, Chief People Officer at GWI. Coates focuses on the pressures that are affecting many people as they move through life and how these have intensified in recent years: “Whether it’s political turbulence or changes brought on by the pandemic, in recent years everyone has had a lot to deal with. And now with the cost of living crisis acting as an extra stressor, it’s critical that mental health support is prioritised in the workplace.”

As to how mental health at work can be best tackled, Coates recommends: “This means real, action-based support. For companies today, superficial strategies aren’t enough. An important element to any mental health programme is training, both for leaders and managers – recent data from GWI found that 34 percent of employees want to see this type of training across the business. A manager that’s had this training is much more likely to spot when a person is struggling with their mental health and put plans in place to best support them. The right level of understanding and training around mental health is no longer a nice-to-have but necessary.”

There is a need among workers as well for recognition as to the issues and for appropriate support services. Here Coates adds: “We also found that 51 percent of people want employers to provide mental wellbeing leave or days off. As the line between our work and personal lives blurred during covid-19, giving employees this headspace can help to safeguard their mental health and create a positive, productive working environment.”

The second commentator is Andrew Filev, CEO and founder at Wrike. He looks at the changes t the way work is organised, which has been driven as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Filev observes that mental health issues have “never been more relevant, especially given our increasingly hybrid work landscape. While some individuals have embraced the flexibility that comes with this, many are finding it increasingly difficult to switch off and restrict working hours. This can lead to feelings of overload and burnout. In fact, our research revealed that 60 percent of knowledge workers are stressed because their job is eating into their personal life.”

Tackling mental health at work is a win-win for employees and the employer, says Filev: “Ongoing stress at work can have a huge impact on mental health, which has consequences for productivity and talent retention. And data shows that lack of mental health support can reduce business productivity by a quarter.”

Filev says that for mental health services to be effective, employers need to adapt in order to meet the changing needs of employees, such as: “With the number of full-time, office-based employees continuing to decline, it’s critical that organisations set out detailed support strategies to help staff adjust to remote working. At the heart of this, they must make mental health a priority by promoting work-life balance and ensuring that employees have the tools they need to effectively manage their workload. Modern technologies – such as collaborative work management tools – can also help by enabling employees to manage work and time on a daily basis, limiting overtime whilst maintaining transparency and productivity.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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