Last Updated 1 month by Emily Standley-Allard
Your workplace strongly impacts your emotional health on a daily basis. Emotional health is key to your ability to carry out everyday activities, impacts the quality of relationships, and your overall happiness. Emotional health in the workplace is an absolute necessity today that fortunately more people and business owners are becoming aware of and making changes to help their employees thrive.
I am not a health professional and don’t profess to be. These views are strictly my own opinion and from various cited resources. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
The impact of the workplace on your emotional health
Emotional Health in the Workplace
Workplace stress without a doubt isn’t uncommon, but when left unchecked, it can lead to bigger emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety.
When this happens, stress not only creates debilitating negative emotions, but it also results in lower productivity, the inability to concentrate on work and strained relationships with colleagues.
Prioritizing emotional and mental health in the workplace is paramount.
There are so many factors that influence our overall emotional health.
Whether it’s the type of food, exercise, the air we breathe, our work environment, our genes, stress factors, our close relationships, the stars and planets (if you believe that) or even the weather forecast, there are a lot of things at play that has an effect on our emotional health.
One of the largest influences on our health is our work environment, what we work on every day, how stressful it is, along with co-worker relationships.
We spend a great deal of time at work talking with, bonding and sharing space with co-workers. Therefore, our relationships with them can impact our emotional health greatly.
The way we communicate overall, and express intimacy with a loved one can have a monumental impact on our mental, emotional and physical wellness.
Keep reading to learn more about the workplace may be impacting your mental and emotional health.
What is emotional health?
Emotional health is an important part of overall health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
They’re able to cope with life’s challenges. They can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships.
Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time.
It means you’re aware of your emotions.
You can deal with them, whether they’re positive or negative.
Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness. But they know how to manage their negative feelings. They can tell when a problem is more than they can handle on their own.
They also know when to seek help from their doctor.
Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are steps you can take to improve your emotional health and be happier.
Resource – Emotional Wellness Toolkit | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Employee mental health can be negatively affected in the workplace due to:
Inadequate health and safety policies
Workplace health and safety policies aim to protect the well-being of employees, visitors, and customers. They also protect employers.
For instance, a general policy may include consulting with employees on day-to-day health issues or demonstrating a commitment to safe working conditions.
Are employees working with hazardous materials or poorly maintained equipment?
Is the workplace over-crowded, poorly lit or ventilated, or unsanitary?
Is the boss micromanaging constantly?
Are workplace accidents common?
Have employee safety complaints or concerns gone unanswered?
Workplaces with poor health and safety policies may decrease employee mental health, lose staff, risk prosecution, and reduce profitability.
Poor communication and management practices
Kind and engaging communication and management practices are the mark of a good manager-employee relationship.
Poor communication and practices, on the other hand, create strain on the relationship, create poor mental health, and increase workplace stress.
Low levels of support for employees
Managers who don’t help remove obstacles or share resources with employees can contribute to employees feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated.
For instance, rather than expecting employees to figure out tasks that they’re unclear about, managers should demonstrate how to complete those tasks and stay available for questions.
The expectations of employees to constantly perform at peak levels puts unreasonable pressure on them.
It leads to an increase in workload and work hours, added stress, and emotional exhaustion.
Job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic became a major stressor for employees in 2020.
The fear of not being able to pay bills or care for families carries a significant threat to an individual’s mental well-being.
How can emotional health issues affect my job?
Consider the connection between your own mental health and your performance.
When you feel good mentally and emotionally, you approach your job with good emotional health.
You’re adaptable, flexible, and resilient. You are able to handle challenges. Your contributions to your team are meaningful, and you thrive in your personal and professional life.
But when you’re struggling with poor mental health at work, even if it isn’t extreme, it negatively affects your job in many ways.
Why should companies worry about emotional health?
Poor mental health and emotional distress in the workplace are problematic for companies for a number of reasons.
Poor mental health at work can result in:
- Disengaged employees
- Poor communication
- High turnover
- Safety liabilities
- Poor job performance
- Low productivity
- Poor decision-making
- Decreased profits
Path to improved emotional health
Emotional health allows you to work productively and cope with the stresses of everyday life. It can help you realize your full potential. It helps you work with other people and contribute to society.
It also affects your physical health.
Research shows a link between an upbeat mental state and physical signs of good health. These include lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, and a healthier weight.
Ways to improve or maintain good emotional health
- Be aware of your emotions and reactions. Notice what in your life makes you sad, frustrated, or angry. Try to address or change those things.
- Express your feelings in appropriate ways. Let people close to you know when something is bothering you. Keeping feelings of sadness or anger inside adds to stress. It can cause problems in your relationships and at work or school.
- Think before you act. Give yourself time to think and be calm before you say or do something you might regret.
- Manage stress. Learn relaxation methods to cope with stress. These could include deep breathing, mindset training, meditation, and exercise.
- Strive for balance. Find a healthy balance between work and play, and between activity and rest. Make time for things you enjoy. Focus on positive things in your life.
- Take care of your physical health. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Keep your physical health from affecting your emotional health.
- Connect with others. Make a lunch date, join a group, make conversation with new people. We need positive connections with other people.
- Find purpose and meaning. Figure out what’s important to you in life and focus on that. This could be your work, your family, coaching, volunteering, caregiving, or something else. Spend your time doing what feels meaningful to you.
- Stay positive. Focus on the good things in your life. Forgive yourself for making mistakes and forgive others. Spend time with healthy, positive people.
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Important things to consider
People who have good emotional health can still have emotional problems or mental illness.
Mental illness often has a physical cause. This could be from a chemical imbalance in the brain. Stress and problems with family, work, or school can trigger mental illness or make it worse.
Counseling, support groups, and medicines can help people who have emotional problems or mental illness.
If you have an ongoing emotional problem, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you find the right type of treatment.
Questions for your doctor
- What steps should I take to improve my emotional health?
- Would medicine help me be able to cope better?
- Should I see a therapist or counselor?
- How does my physical health affect my emotional health?
- What stress management techniques would work best for me?
Promoting emotional health at work
To promote mental well-being at work, employees should encourage employers to offer stress management education and mental health programs that meet their needs and interests.
Employees should also understand policies around how to take a mental health day off work in case the need arises.
Additionally, here are seven strategies employees can use to promote emotional and mental well-being at work:
1. Take part in employer-sponsored programs and activities. Employees should take advantage of employer programs to learn skills and obtain the support they need.
2. Share ups and downs with others. To help reduce the stigma around mental health, employees can share more of their own experiences with other co-workers when appropriate. Unless you feel very safe, this is more about sharing your humanness than getting into details — co-workers can’t substitute for mental health professionals.
3. Practice coping skills during the workday. To cope with daily work stressors, employees can practice skills that promote healthier mindsets, relationships, and self-image.
4. Ask your employer if you can work a hybrid schedule. If going into the office is too stressful 5 days per week, and your position allows it, see if you can work a 3/2 hybrid schedule. Some employees find the balance of going into an office and working remotely more suitable for their mental and emotional health overall.
Coping tools for emotional health may include:
- Deep breathing
- Healthy communication
- Prioritization and focusing on one task at a time to avoid being overwhelmed
- Using positive self-talk
5. Practice self-care on lunch breaks. Daily lunch breaks are more than just opportunities to eat — they’re also the perfect time to practice self-care.
Practicing self-care during lunch breaks may include:
- Listening to inspirational podcasts and programs
- Deep breathing
- Going for a short nature walk
- Using mindset techniques and strategies
6. Take care of their physical health. Employees can set themselves up for mental health success by taking care of their physical health. This includes eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
7. Nurture relationships. Nurturing social connections at work is key to preventing social isolation and loneliness in the workplace.
Awareness of the impact of the full range of emotional health experiences is the first step to supporting good mental health in the workplace.
All employees benefit when companies support and promote positive emotional health for those who are suffering and those who are just not thriving.
Companies can lead by destigmatizing mental health as a topic and also taking a broader view of the company’s role. We can redefine emotional and mental health by focusing on solutions that help employees flourish personally and professionally, in addition to providing support and access for clinical care for those most in need.
With understanding, creativity, and support, companies can provide the best emotional health programs in the workplace!
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