Workplace Mental Health and the Role of Ergonomics

May 31, 2021

 woman consoling man

Work-related stress and mental health issues frequently coexist, and the effects can be highly similar. Workplace stress can exacerbate an already underlying mental health problem, making it much more challenging to manage. When work-related stress gets so severe that it triggers an already occurring psychological pain, it becomes difficult to distinguish one from the other.

Common mental health disorders and stress can coexist – individuals may experience work-related stress and physical changes such as high blood pressure without experiencing anxiety, depression, or other psychological issues. They may also experience panic and despair in the presence of stress. Stress responds to events or situations in one's personal life, professional life, or a blend of the two. Common mental health disorders can have a single cause outside of work, such as loss, divorce, postpartum depression, a physical condition, or a family medical history of the illness. However, these kinds of issues might occur in persons with no apparent explanation.

Common causes of mental health issues at work:

Workload

The extra workload is the most common cause of mental health problems in the job, with nearly four out of ten people indicating it as the primary cause. It is not unusual for employees to burn out because they want to do the best job they can and feel obligated to finish all of the work entrusted to them. As an employer, you must balance producing high-quality results and ensuring your employees' well-being.

Potential side effects: 

  • Health problems: When employees are pressured, their typical activities can take a back seat, and they can easily overlook day-to-day healthy habits and behaviors. A lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet, and high stress levels can all lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and an overall unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Personal conflictsFailure to switch offline can severely impact relationships, and some individuals may feel compelled to prioritize their work above domestic life. This can cause increased tension and worry, making it difficult for your team to retain concentration and commitment, thus impacting production.
  • Burnout: Late nights and pressure from all sides might cause some workers to become psychologically, emotionally, or physically drained. This can result in increased absenteeism, mishaps, and an inability to concentrate.

Bullying

Bullying has the potential to be disastrous. According to reports, victims might suffer from various major mental health disorders, including anxiousness, anxiety attacks, sadness, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is widespread, with some estimates putting the figure as high as 75% of those affected. Bullying is terrible for employee morale, but it also costs businesses money. Bullying-related absence, staff turnover, and performance cost companies billions of dollars each year.

Potential side effects: 

  • Decreased productivity: Bullying in the workplace can diminish your employees' trust. This can result in a weaker personality and an inability to function, resulting in more unsatisfactory performance. Bullied employees at work may be more concerned with resolving the situation with the bully than with carrying out their responsibilities efficiently.
  • Health risks: Employees who their colleagues bully are in danger of enduring both physical and psychological consequences. These may include tension, worry, high blood pressure, and anxiety attacks, but more severe disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, have been associated with workplace bullying.
  • Corporate image: Unhappy employees who feel driven to quit because the condition has gotten unbearable can turn to websites to discuss their experiences working for your company. This can not only discourage future talent from choosing your organization, but it can also send a message to other companies about your workplace norms.

Financial struggles

Recognize that your employees may be ashamed about their economic standing, so you should approach any discussions with respect and compassion for the individual. As a manager, there are some more practical steps you may take to assist your employees' financial circumstances:

  • Extend support via employee assistance programs.
  • Pay them on time.
  • Allow flexibility, such as working from home.
  • Offer affordable loans.

Common mental health issues

Anxiety and stress

The pressure to perform hard both day and night to attain your goals puts you at risk of becoming burnt out in a matter of days. People who work from home may feel pressured to stay awake late at night when there is no natural light, which can cause strain and lead to increased worry and tension.

Loneliness

When you work remotely, you will most likely spend several days alone in the workplace. Although this means you will have no or few distractions from your colleagues, you are more likely to miss out on opportunities to discuss and vent about various matters that worry you.

Depression

Many people who work from home become depressed because they feel trapped. It can take a bit of time to uncover the proof of career achievement. When this generates anxiety, alienation, and stress, you are more prone to develop depression, leading to a variety of health issues such as unexplained back problems, migraines, and other symptoms.

Physical manifestations of common health problems

HEADACHES

Your headache may not necessarily be caused by stress, especially if you have previously endured your colleague. If you start getting migraines regularly, it could be an indication of depression. Unlike painful migraine headaches, depression-related headaches do not always limit one's ability to perform. The National Headache Foundation describes this sort of head discomfort as "tension headaches," and it may seem like a faint throbbing feeling, especially around the brows. While over-the-counter pain relievers can assist, these headaches tend to recur frequently. Chronic tension headaches are sometimes an indication of major depressive illness.

FATIGUE

While we commonly associate tiredness with stress, despair can also produce fatigue. In addition to exhaustion, depression-related tiredness can have attention issues, agitation, and indifference. Depressed people frequently have a nonrestorative sleep, which means they feel lethargic even after a whole night's rest. However, because many medical conditions, such as infections and viruses, can induce exhaustion, determining whether or not fatigue is linked to depression can be difficult.

REDUCED PAIN TOLERANCE

One 2015 study found a link between depression and poor pain tolerance, while another 2010 study found that pain had a stronger impact on persons who are depressed. Although there is no definite cause-and-effect relationship between these two issues, it is crucial to review them together, especially if your doctor offers treatment.

BACK PAIN AND ACHING MUSCLES

Your back may feel OK in the morning, but when you get to work or sit at your desk, it begins to hurt. It could be due to stress or despair. While frequently connected with poor posture or injury, backaches can also be a sign of psychological discomfort. Psychologists and psychiatrists have long known that emotional disorders can create persistent aches and pains, but the link between depression and the body's inflammatory response is still being investigated.

Ergonomics to support you physically and mentally

Standing desks

Having mentioned above that being mentally stressed may cause low pain tolerance, it would be constructive to at least work on alleviating or preventing unnecessary pains, especially while working. Employees should take breaks to stroll around or stand. This helps to develop leg muscles. It is also beneficial for our back's wellness. Additionally, it promotes blood flow throughout the body. As a result, they should perform standing desk exercises at work to improve the body's capacity to resolve mental health issues. One way to do this is by enhancing workspaces with standing desks. It should be spacious enough to accommodate elbows, arms, and wrists while working on their keyboard and mouse, reducing strain. Moreover, obtain workout equipment like desk bikes and make standing desk exercises easy to perform even while completing tasks.

Ergonomic chairs

Use an ergonomic chair that supports the back to avoid mental health issues and their associated side effects, such as migraines and backaches. The leading cause for this is that stationary sitting posture places too much stress and pressure on the limbs, shoulders, and spine. This posture, mainly, can impose undue strain on the spinal discs and back muscles and subject the body to the possibility of mental health difficulties.

Once you've obtained an ergonomic chair to support the back, make sure to utilize it correctly by following the instructions. An appropriate office chair is a tool that can help us avoid various health issues. However, we must use it appropriately to minimize and remove the symptoms of mental problems. An ergonomic chair with lumbar support would be an excellent choice. Suppose you do not optimize your office by selecting the best ergonomic chair for the back and using it effectively. In that case, the brain becomes overburdened, and mental health issues begin to influence life and career.

Final Word

In reality, it is typically a mixture of concerns that harm a worker's mental health. As a result, a more comprehensive approach to employee mental health management is essential, and the first step you can take is to develop a clear guideline on the subject. This will go a long way toward building a culture of awareness about mental health in the future.

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