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Article. Published on Jan 24, 2017.

Is your hectic work life causing Mental Health concerns?

If you are a part of India’s growing workforce, chances are, you have felt the stress that comes along with competing in the world’s fourth fastest growing economy. (Wall Street Journal 2015). 12 million people enter the workforce every year but only 5.5 million jobs are created annually; the pressure to not only land a job, but also retain it, can be debilitating. What we do not realize however, is that workplace stress can lead to other unintended consequences, including physical as well as mental health concerns. Be it any level of employment – beginner, manager or CEO, irrespective of designation or hierarchy, employees are susceptible to workplace depression or anxiety.

Here are a few Mental Health Concerns associated with work:

Stress

While work itself can be stimulating and good for one’s mental health, overworking to a point of exhaustion, is largely associated with negative consequences. For example, overwhelming amounts of stress has been linked with health problems such as cardiovascular disease.

Depression

According to the WHO, 300 million people across the world suffer from Depression, with many displaying symptoms of anxiety as well. This statistic is only set to rise. Furthermore, while 1 in 4 people have depression, 1 in 4 people suffering from depression associate it unconducive workspaces. (Dr. Chee Ng, the University of Melbourne). Not only is this statistic bothersome to the individual, but it can have a detrimental effect on the economy. The WHO estimates that US$ 1 trillion USD is lost in productivity due to employees suffering from depression and/or anxiety. To make matters worse, depression in itself can lead to other mental health concerns such as alcoholism and suicidal ideation.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol in particular. It has become relatively common for employees to go drinking together after a day of hard work. However, problems arise when, due to the stress of meeting deadlines and submissions, employees turn to alcohol or other substances as a coping mechanism.

Harassment and bullying

Due to the power dynamics involved at work,  is not uncommon to experience bullying or harassment. Bullying by itself a major cause of concern in work spaces because it can cause anxiety. Worse; for women in the workforce, sexual harassment occurs frequently. According to the National Crime Bureau of India, cases of harassment in the workplace rose by more than a 100% between 2014 and 2015. According to another study conducted by the Indian National Bar Association in 2016,  69% of victims do not complain to the management about harassment in the workplace. There has also been a 35% rise in sexual harassment complaints in India from 249 to 336 between 2013 and 2014. See source here.

Burn out

Too much work and no time for a personal life, often causes people to experience burn out. it is important to note that this is a very likely possibility for people who work overtime and receive relatively fewer benefits for doing the same.

How can we ensure a healthier work environment?

Mental Health concerns can lead to a loss in productivity and hence, it is in the interest of both - the employer and the employee, to invest in the creation of a better work environment. Here are a few measures that can help to ensure a healthier work environment:
Firstly; remember - Money does not always equal happiness.
A study conducted by University of Virginia’s professor, Ed Diener demonstrated that while countries with higher economies do have a higher score of subjective well being (one of the components of Happiness). Subjective well-being does not increase along with income after it crosses the average income required in to survive in a particular city.
Let’s start treating mental illness like physical illness.
This helps reduce the stigma and generate a more inclusive work space. People suffering from mental illnesses feel more comfortable and welcome, and everyone feel less pressurized on the whole.
Installing an effective system of grievance redressal.
By providing trained managers who are capable of having difficult conversations, employers can provide employees with a strong support system. It is vital that all employees are aware of who to approach in case of a problem.
Having programs to recognize the prevalence of stress and anxiety
The company can provide certain accommodations for employees, such as flexible work hours during period of recovery and time off for counseling or doctor’s appointments. Such measures go a long way in recognising mental illness or emotional distress  and intervening before it is too late.
Encouraging staff to more open to de-stigmatise mental health
A company culture that encourages open discussion can help create a supportive and happier environment for all employees.
Fostering a healthy work environment is essential in ensuring a safe, wholesome and productive work environment for everyone.

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