By Stephanie Bretzke, Bonus Management Senior Specialist at AB InBev
We spend most of our time at work. With remote working and home office, the border between work and private life is sometimes just a very thin line – replying just to that one urgent mail, finishing quickly after dinner that last template. Our working world is giving us new freedoms, space for creativity and flexible work life balances, but it also brings new challenges. To “log off” sometimes doesn`t just belong to the computer but also our mind. Since our new work dynamic has gained a unique status in our life, it is important that our workplace also takes an active role regarding our mental health, not only after work but also during our working day.
Chronic stress is a disease that is still not discussed enough, even though it has a significant impact on our health. It is not only one of the main reasons for coronary heart disease but also leads to insomnia and cognitive impairments and harms our immune system.
This means that people are getting sick more often and, from a workplace perspective, are less productive in the long term. But due to the demographic development, where the population of employees are getting older and working to a higher age, employers must have a significant interest in keeping their people as fit and healthy as possible.
One first big step in the right direction is to talk openly about these topics. If someone struggles because of their mental health but doesn’t speak about it because it’s still a taboo, the person might feel that something is wrong with themselves and keeps pushing to their limits instead of taking action to improve their mental situation. Getting mental health issues out of the silent corner and discussing them openly at the workplace might help people understand that these issues do not have to simply be accepted because there are things that can be done about them.
Getting the feeling from the workplace that it is okay to speak out loud about mental health can already bring relief to people. Not just when it is “too late” and the issues have developed, but also in preventative methods and actively taking measures against further challenges as soon as the first symptoms appear.
It sounds too easy to be true, but studies have shown that optimism and happiness are the most sustainable prevention methods against mental health issues. So instead of trying just to prevent damages, the workplace can support the mental health of their employees the most if they try to take actions to make the workplace a “happy place”. As said in the beginning, we are spending most of our time at work. If we are unhappy at work, we spend most of our day “unhappy”. The tricky part now is finding out what is needed for the individual to be happy at work. Of course, this strongly depends on individual preferences, but sometimes it’s the small things that make the big difference. For one person, it might be adapted working times, for another, nice team events, for the next one the space to share their creativity at work. The list might be endless. But I think an essential point is that people can feel that they belong to a group where they can be themselves and feel comfortable asking for help if needed.