Let's Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace: It's Okay to Not Be Okay

Let's Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace: It's Okay to Not Be Okay

Dubai, the vibrant and bustling metropolis, has emerged as a global business hub, attracting professionals from all corners of the world. As the city’s economy continues to thrive, it is crucial to address the mental health needs of its workforce. Yes, we're talking about those days when you wake up feeling like a potato, but you still must put on your game face and head to work. It's high time we acknowledged that it's okay to not be okay, and it's about time our workplaces caught up with that notion.

Why to talk about Mental Health at Workplace

A large chunk of our lives is spent at work. In fact, over a 50-year working life, you can expect to spend around 35% of your time working – and that excludes sleep! While work can be enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding, it can also be full of stress, interpersonal conflict, and sometimes drudgery. As a result, the workplace environment plays a significant role in shaping an individual's well-being, making it essential for employers and employees alike to prioritize mental health.

Let's face it: work can be tough. We juggle multiple responsibilities, deal with deadlines, navigate office politics, and try to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's no surprise that our mental health sometimes takes a hit. Therefore, mental health in the workplace is increasingly gaining attention, as many of us are finding it challenging to keep up with the demanding and fast-paced work culture and environment.

Mental health issues affect people across all industries, and Dubai's workforce is no exception. Stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression can take a toll on employees' well-being, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Addressing these issues is crucial for both individuals and the organizations they work for. By fostering a mentally healthy workplace, employers can create an atmosphere of trust, motivation, and productivity, ultimately leading to a more engaged and satisfied workforce.

According to recent reports, 34% of employees in the UAE's corporate sector reported feeling anxious, while 21% reported feeling depressed. According to a study conducted by the Business for Wellbeing Council, half of those who were depressed and half of those who were anxious wanted to change jobs, and they mentioned workplace burnout and a lack of work-life balance as the primary reasons for employees reporting poor mental health.

This is worrying.

As people spend 35% of their waking lives at work, creating a safe, nurturing, and healthy work environment is critical. And if the well-being of the individual isn’t enough to act, poor mental health can have an adverse impact on their productivity and the company’s own bottom line.

For many people, work is a high-pressure environment that affects their mental health. For others, work is not overly stressful, yet other aspects of life push into the workday and make it hard to focus and deliver. Here are some of the risk factors that can put a big strain on mental health at work:

Lack of support: If a workplace does not provide adequate support, both professional and personal, employees may quickly become overwhelmed, unproductive, and stressed.

Poor management: Bad management practices is a major contributor stress and anxiety in workplace. Having a bad boss is basically disastrous for employees.

Lack of work-life balance: Employees with poor work-life balance tend to sleep less, which raises their risk of anxiety and even stroke. Meeting work deadlines while still making time for friends and hobbies, getting adequate rest, eating healthy, and not thinking about work when one is at home are all examples of maintaining a good balance.

Lack of Control: Having control over one’s life is an essential component of mental health. In the workplace, it is important that employees have agency over their work and career, whether it be participating in decision-making, having management pay close attention to them, or having their opinions acknowledged and properly considered.

Unclear health and safety policies: A workplace should provide a clear and organized approach to issues of health and safety, both physical and emotional. These include workplace discrimination policies, prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, fair and structured remuneration, and more.

Steps towards Mental Health in Workplace

Fortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health is starting to fade. More and more companies are waking up to the fact that a supportive and mentally healthy work environment not only benefits their employees but also improves productivity and overall success. Kudos to those organizations that have already implemented initiatives to address mental health concerns, because they're leading the way toward a brighter, healthier future.

The UAE government has responded to these mental health issues by passing the UAE Labour Law in February 2022, which guides employers to implement concrete measures to improve employee wellbeing. Corporate leaders and HR managers are stepping up in innovative ways to ensure a sense of security and comfort for employees. But what can companies do to support their employees' mental well-being?

· Well, it starts with promoting an environment where open conversations about mental health are encouraged and accepted. Raising awareness about mental health is the first step towards building a supportive workplace. Employers need to understand that mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated with the same level of seriousness.

· Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital for mental well-being. Employers can support their employees by providing flexible working hours, remote work options, and paid time off for vacations and personal days. Allowing employees to have some control over their work schedules and offering options for remote work or flexible hours can go a long way towards reducing stress levels. After all, we're not robots—we all have different needs and circumstances that affect our mental health.

· Effective communication between managers and employees helps control time and task planning and is the most important step a company can take to support and improve mental health and employee well-being. Often, employees hesitate to reach out for help due to fears of being judged or stigmatized. Ensuring that managers are well-equipped to handle mental health conversations can make a significant difference in the well-being of employees.

· Implementing wellness programs that focus on mental health is an excellent way to show employees that their well-being matters. From yoga or meditation classes to therapy sessions or counselling services, these initiatives can help individuals cope with stress, build resilience, and find a support system within their workplace. Furthermore, creating spaces for relaxation or meditation in the workplace, as well as setting realistic workload expectations are all essential in preventing burnout and maintaining mental health. Remember, a healthy employee is a happy and productive employee!

· Lastly, but certainly not least, we need to look out for each other. Creating a culture of empathy, compassion, and support within the workplace can do wonders for mental health. A simple act of kindness or a genuine conversation with a co-worker can make a world of difference to someone who might be struggling.

If all these factors can be effectively and consistently implemented in workplaces across the UAE, then mental health in the workplace will strengthen, boosting productivity, team output, and ultimately business performance.

Long Story Short...

Valuing mental health in the workplace is not only a responsibility but also a good investment for employers in Dubai. By facilitating a mentally healthy work environment, employers can support their employees' well-being, increase productivity, reduce turnover, and ultimately contribute to the overall success of their organizations. By implementing awareness programs, encouraging work-life balance, providing access to mental health resources, and fostering a supportive work culture, Dubai's professionals can thrive both personally and professionally, resulting in a happier and more resilient workforce.

Remember, prioritizing mental health is a journey that requires continuous effort and commitment from all stakeholders involved. By working together, employers, employees, and the broader community in Dubai can create a workplace culture that values and nurtures mental well-being, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for all.

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