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Workplace safety includes more than keeping employees free from physical injury. Safety includes mental health, too. When employees suffer from anxiety, depression, poor coping skills or other psychological stress, it can contribute to both errors that cause workplace injury as well as absenteeism.
While some companies already do a great job of communicating the need for good mental health to their employees and have established a framework of support for them, others might benefit from increased awareness.
That’s a big part of the reason some government agencies roll out information campaigns about mental health at work and why it’s important. Going a step further, some agencies also direct companies and workers to mental health resources for those who might benefit from them.
For example, in the U.K., the government is developing proposals for the purpose of reducing work time lost due to poor health, including poor mental health. One of the goals of the government is to cut down on employers’ costs for workplace health services.
As with any workplace effort to foster overall health and safety, having a written safety guideline or policy can be effective. This ensures that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in contributing to the overall health and safety of the organization.
And what comes after that policy is developed is just as important. Companies must provide sufficient and proper training to employees, including upper management and leadership teams. Having a policy without training is like having a car without gasoline – it might look nice but it won’t get you anywhere.
There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes poor mental health at work and only a doctor can make a formal medical diagnosis. But there are some behaviors that serve as warning signs that something isn’t right with a colleague.
If a typically good worker is suddenly less productive and starts being absent a lot, that’s the sign of a problem that could be mental health related. Other signals include a lack of communication and engagement as well as trouble making decisions. Those behaviors can also manifest themselves by failing to adhere to important workplace health and safety rules.
For many companies, fostering good mental health starts with encouraging strong interpersonal relationships among employees.
Qualities like trust, honesty, and empathy go a long way, and encourage feelings of connection and inclusion. More formal mental health and safety awareness and training for best practices can also be effective. In some cases, this training can be done in-house; depending on staff expertise, it might also be advisable to bring in an outside expert to provide instruction.
Mental health is an important part of workplace health and safety. It’s also gotten more attention from government agencies, lately, as well as company leadership teams who understand that poor mental health can affect employees’ productivity.
By developing programs and policies that support strong mental health, companies can help improve their employees’ overall workplace performance.
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