Here is why workplace wellness mattersOrganisations often prioritise growth and progress for their own success, but they overlook the importance of employee well-being in the process.
In today's evolving workplace scenario, fostering a culture of well-being has become paramount. This includes not just physical health but also how we feel emotionally and socially when we’re at work. Caring for our mental health should begin with the places where we spend the most time each day. And besides our home, the workplace is where we spend most of our time. How we feel and how our day goes at work can make a huge difference in how we feel, how we interact with our loved ones, and what we do when we go back home.
Mental health is a growing concern, particularly when it becomes entwined with various workplace issues. Although we’re making progress in understanding mental health at work, the truth is that many people still face mental health challenges due to factors like long working hours, relationships with colleagues, and the tasks they do for their jobs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor working environments—including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity—pose a risk to mental health. These are just a few examples of the many challenges employees confront daily.
In counselling sessions as well, many individuals often recount their real-life experiences where excessive workloads and unmanaged stress stand out as major contributors to their declining mental health at work and life in general. Similarly, people frequently share distressing accounts of having faced unfair treatment and unequal pay. Equal pay for equal work is what everyone should opt for, but sadly that’s not the case. Unfair treatment and pay discrepancies based on factors like age, gender, etc are not just problems related to economic injustice, but they profoundly take a toll on a person’s mental well-being. These issues give rise to feelings such as diminished self-confidence, a sense of being treated unjustly, and financial stress. Additionally, risks to mental health at work can also include limited support from colleagues or authoritarian supervision, unclear job roles, an organisational culture that enables negative behaviours, lack of control over job design or workload and poor communication and management practices, among others.
The workplace has the potential to be a supportive space that safeguards employees’ mental well-being if employers and the entire team create a safe and thriving working environment. We’ve moved past—or at least we should have moved past—the times when people were willing to risk their mental health for their jobs, but the reality we often see is quite different.
Safe and healthy work settings are things all employees deserve. This reduces stress and conflicts at work, boosts employee retention and job performance, and improves employees’ productivity and resilience. This enables every individual to reach their highest potential. Employees should be provided with a safe space at all levels where they can communicate openly without fear of discrimination. Without such environment, we risk losing out on important feedback that can help retain the most talented team members.
Some may wonder how much jobs really affect our mental health, but there is a strong connection between them. For instance, when we are emotionally and mentally healthy, our approach to work changes. We handle challenges better, are more adaptable, and contribute more to our teams. On the flip side, if we are not feeling our best emotionally and mentally, even if it’s not that severe, our mental health suffers. This can lead to issues like poor communication and decision-making, reduced physical capability and daily functioning, a lack of engagement with our work, and even a decrease in productivity and job performance.
Workplaces often focus on an organisation’s growth and progress, which is undoubtedly crucial for its survival and success. However, what they sometimes forget is that the well-being of employees is equally important. The growth of the organisation is closely connected to the satisfaction, well-being, and psychological safety of its employees. When workplace well-being is not a priority, there is always going to be a limit to how much the organisation can grow. The only question is when will that limit be reached? Because beyond that point, the organisation’s progress becomes significantly more difficult.
So what is the solution to this problem? There is no specific answer to that because, in order to make real and lasting changes in the workplace, well-being at work must be promoted and protected in accordance with organisational needs and policies while simultaneously catering to both employer and employee concerns. Empathy is one of the most important tools that can be used in any situation. When developing policies that apply to everyone, it is critical to understand what an employee is going through. The other is a state of balance. A balance must be struck between an organisation’s vision and employee well-being. The organisation also has to identify what works best for them to achieve that balance.
Workplace well-being is more than a buzzword; it is a critical factor that influences our overall happiness, productivity, and organisational success. It is key to remember that workplace well-being is a journey, and even the smallest steps can lead to significant changes. As we take these initial strides towards a brighter workplace, let’s reflect: What’s the next small step every workplace can take to improve their employee’s well-being and contribute to a more positive work environment?”
Moktan is a psychosocial counsellor at Happy Minds, a mental health and well-being platform.