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Mentally strong at work: strategies to promote mental health in the workplace

Mental health in the workplace is a central pillar for the performance and well-being of employees. In view of increasing absenteeism, as the DAK Psychreport 2023 shows, with around 301 days of incapacity to work per 100 insured persons due to mental illness, the importance of clear prevention and support strategies is becoming increasingly apparent. A large proportion of these days of absence are due to serious conditions such as depression and adjustment disorders, exacerbated by changes in the reporting system due to electronic incapacity to work reporting (eAU), which enables complete recording.

This article discusses how mental health in the workplace is defined, what factors influence it and how risks can be identified and minimised through risk assessments. It also presents practical tips on how both employers and employees can actively contribute to improving mental wellbeing. With a stronger focus on mental health, companies can not only improve the well-being of their teams, but also positively influence their productivity and working atmosphere.

What is mental health in the workplace?

What does mental health in the workplace actually mean? It refers to the emotional, psychological and social well-being of employees. It influences how people think, feel and act, especially in terms of how they deal with stress, maintain interpersonal relationships and make decisions. Good mental health enables employees to fulfil their daily tasks effectively, adapt to challenges and remain productive. So it's about more than just the absence of illness. For this to succeed, it is important that employers take measures to promote and protect the mental health of their employees.

Important factors for mental health in the workplace

Promoting mental health in the workplace is based on several key factors that not only support the individual well-being of employees, but also create a healthy and productive working environment.

  1. Work environment and corporate culture: An open and inclusive corporate culture that values diversity and promotes inclusion is essential for mental health. A safe working environment in which all employees feel protected and respected contributes significantly to their mental well-being.
  2. Resilience and work requirements: A good balance between the demands of the work and the available resources is crucial. It is important that employees are not overloaded and can rely on sufficient support to cope with their tasks. This strengthens individual resilience and helps to reduce stress.
  3. Social support: Positive relationships in the workplace are a key factor in mental health. Through team building activities, regular social events and building support networks, organisations can foster a sense of belonging and community. This helps to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing.

Risk assessment to identify risks

Before looking at the risk assessment in detail, it is helpful to briefly explain the legal framework. Under the German Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are obliged to assess both physical and mental stress in the workplace. These assessments are essential in order to develop preventative measures against mental stress and to ensure a healthy working environment.

The risk assessment includes the identification of potential risk factors that could affect the mental well-being of employees. The factors checked include

  • Work content and requirements: Are the tasks clearly defined and appropriate?
  • Work organisation: Are the working hours appropriate and flexible?
  • Social relationships: Is there sufficient support from colleagues and superiors?
  • Working environment: Is the physical environment conducive to mental health?

The results of the risk assessment must then be translated into specific measures to prevent mental stress and adapt the working environment accordingly.

4 practical tips for promoting mental health in the workplace

Preventative measures are essential to boost mental health and prevent mental illness in the workplace. Here are four proven methods that can help any organisation create a healthier working environment:

  1. Practising stress management
    Effective stress management is crucial to prevent burnout and excessive demands. Regular training on how to deal with stress, time management workshops and relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga are essential to help employees cope better with pressure.
  2. Introduce mindfulness techniques
    Introducing mindfulness into the workplace can help to raise awareness of your own mental state and improve your response to stress. Short, regular sessions can help to lift your overall mood and increase productivity.
  3. Improving the way you deal with burnout
    It is important to develop preventative strategies against burnout that recognise overwork and respond appropriately. Measures such as introducing sufficient breaks, setting realistic goals and offering health-promoting activities are of great importance here.
  4. Creating a resilient working environment
    Strengthening resilience in the workplace through a culture of openness and support can make a significant contribution to mental health. Regular feedback, appreciative communication and team-building activities are effective ways to create an environment in which all employees feel safe and valued.

Conclusion

Promoting mental health in the workplace is an ongoing commitment that requires adjustments and assessments in order to respond to the ever-changing demands of the world of work. A proactive approach in this area can not only significantly improve employee wellbeing, but also have a positive impact on productivity and the overall climate within the organisation. By implementing the above tips and strategies, employers and employees can work together to create a healthier and more supportive working environment.

 

FAQs

How can you promote mental health in the workplace?

Promoting mental health in the workplace involves creating a working environment that supports mental wellbeing. This can be achieved through measures such as an inclusive corporate culture, the provision of mental health resources, regular breaks and a good work-life balance. Training on stress management and the promotion of open communication are also important.

What examples are there of psychological stress in the workplace?

Mental stress in the workplace can be multifaceted. These include high time pressure, excessive work demands, a lack of social support, conflicts with colleagues or superiors, unsafe working conditions and poor working conditions. These factors can increase the risk of mental health problems such as stress, burnout or depression.

What does the law say about mental health in the workplace?

In many countries, employers are legally obliged to protect the mental health of their employees. This includes carrying out risk assessments, which must also take into account mental health risks in the workplace. Measures to reduce these risks must be developed and implemented to ensure a safe and healthy working environment.

Are there any statistics on mental stress in the workplace?

Statistical data shows that a significant proportion of employees feel mentally stressed by their work. According to one survey, for example, around 25% of the working population in Germany felt affected by mental stress in 2020. Particularly high levels of stress were found in occupational groups such as managers and scientists. 

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