With all that has happened around the world over the past two years, the importance of mental health has finally come into the limelight. Facts and figures on mental health are worrying, with a growing number of individuals who have either endured or will endure a mental health issue during their lifetime. These individuals can be anyone – your colleague, your boss, sibling, parent or even you. Yet, the significance of managing one’s mental health, specifically in the context of the workplace, has only recently become a topic that many companies in Lebanon are taking note of.
Whilst COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of life as we know it, a silver lining did appear – mental health and corporate wellness started to be addressed. Mental health challenges were normalized and discussions around how to improve employee mental wellness started to surface. Today, there are many NGOs working in these sphere, and thanks to the efforts of the community, mental health is no longer considered a stigma.
One such NGO is Embrace, a Lebanese organization specialized in mental health and suicide prevention. Embrace recently launched an awareness campaign tackling the importance of mental health in the workplace. Based on the statistics shared by Embrace, 1 in 4 employees in the workplace will suffer from a mental health issue at some point in their career.
Why is this statistic important? Because when mental health issues are not dealt with, they can have a huge impact on the individual and their surrounding environments. In the workplace, it can lead to a loss of motivation, changes in attitude and behavior, burnout and decreased productivity levels. These factors will have an impact on job performance and engagement levels and can lead to communication breakdowns.
How can companies address mental health in the workplace?
Long gone are the days when professionals were advised to leave all their problems at home when they got to the office, and vice versa. Unfortunately, this is no longer an option, as the ongoing crises in Lebanon seem to follow us everywhere we go. Concurrently, work-related stress is increasing, with so many factors out of our control.
Professionals are spending an increasing number of hours in the workplace or in front of the screen, more than they do in their own homes or in nature. With so much time dedicated to work, employees, whether physically or virtually present, need structures to support their mental wellbeing.
Companies can create and enhance corporate wellness structures by:
Creating programs or policies whereby mental health issues are addressed and team members are aware of their rights (perhaps the policy could have mental wellness days or optional work from home days)Extending complementary or discounted sessions with psychologists, therapists or coaches, to employees that require support
- Ensuring communication channels are in place, for team members to share, report or address their mental health concerns
- Making available employee mental health assessments. These can be either conducted on a personal basis (self), or by a skilled practitioner
- Implementing a personalized wellness tracking system, to monitor employee mental health and flag any issues before they escalate
- Hosting workshops that address how to manage one’s mental health, including breathing techniques, meditation and mindfulness exercises, and shedding light on stress management practices
- Providing trainings to management to equip them with the knowledge and skills to be able to identify any team member showing signs of stress or anxiety and how to extend support to the employee
What can professionals do to manage their mental health?
Companies can create more supportive structures that enhance a culture of mental wellness. However, employees should also be empowered to take charge of their mental health and grow their awareness to manage their stress levels. Here are some tips and tools for professionals in every sector:
- Get moving: Now that the weather is finally lightening up, take a walk during lunch breaks, and get moving during weekends. Go for an outdoor walk or on a longer hike, or join BDD’s fitness classes on the roof or enroll in a local gym. There are many free fitness videos online as well.
- Structure your day: Plan out your day and tasks in a manner that feels manageable to you. Have a master list in place, then a priority list with deadlines – these are items you need to finish within a set timeframe. Remember that not everything is urgent.
- Take digital breaks: One scrolling session too many on social media, can send your nervous system into a frenzy, with all that is happening locally and globally. Not staying abreast with every single piece of news, the Lira rate, what your friends are eating, or what happened in a distant country is ok. Give yourself the time to recharge.
- Listen to music: Music, depending on the genre, has healing effects. Create a playlist of feel good tracks, and listen to it while at work or while driving. There are also specialized healing and concentration tracks that you can find for free online.
- Ask for help: Sometimes the pressure and stress of everyday life can become too much to bear. And that is ok. When you feel you are unable to manage it alone, ask for support, whether from a friend, professional or dedicated counselor. Your mental health should be your priority.
When our mental health is dampened, we cannot expect to function or have energy in any area of life. Prioritize your mental health and encourage your respective companies to do the same.