Many people spend more time at work than at home; it’s essential that the time spent at work is worthwhile and not soul-draining. Unfortunately, whether due to the physical environment or workplace demands, office environments can manifest, change, and aggravate mood disorders, including depression. For those in health care positions, mood disorders are more prevalent and more likely to be worsened by a problematic work environment.
It is essential that office settings in the mental health industry are aware of the emotional health needs of their employees. In addition, employers should be proactive in preventing burnout. There are many factors to pay close attention to in creating a positive work environment.
Work Environments should:
- Have a pleasant aroma.
- Be well-lit.
- Be quiet and soothing.
- Encourage outdoor breaks. According to a 2017 article in the Journal of Behavioral Health titled, “Effectiveness and Feasibility of a 10-Minute Employee Stress Intervention: Outdoor Booster Break,” outdoor breaks were beneficial to employees. Employees who experienced clinical depression showed reduced depressive symptoms after some fresh air for the rest of the day. Those who don’t experience mood disorders experienced a significant stress reduction when breaks were outdoors, instead of indoors.
- Be allergen-free, as recommended by the authors of the 1991 article, “Depression and Allergies: Survey of a Nonclinical Population.”
- Not force shift work on employees.
- Proactively reduce stress in high-stress workplaces.
- Give employees more control of their workplace, as recommended by Robert Karaseks’ article, “Job Demands, Job Decision Latitude, and Mental Strain: Implications for Job Redesign.”
- Reward employees in accordance with their efforts.
- Offer social support. Support at work can dampen the effects of stress.
- Have supervisors who listen to their employees and treat them fairly.
Implementing these changes can take authority, time, and money. Some of these changes may not be feasible based on budget. However, there is much that employers can do to better their work environment for themselves and their employees.
5 Tips for a Better Workplace
Improving workplace quality is especially important in the mental health profession. While a total reorganization of the workplace might not be feasible, there are still some things that can lighten the load on workers and yourself, and help prevent employees’ mental health problems.
#1 Allow workers more control of their individual work environment.
Allowing workers to tailor their workspace can make a difference in their mental health. Give them sufficient office space, access to candles or distance from the scents of other employees, personalized temperature control, air purifiers to prevent allergies, and lighting to fit employees’ needs. Be aware of their unique desires. Even access to a window can make a significant difference for employees with mood disorders.
#2 Encourage and facilitate outdoor breaks.
According to a 2010 article in Taylor & Francis Online, “Frequent Short Rest Breaks From Computer Work: Effect on Productivity and Well Being at Two Sites,” getting away from a computer makes employees more productive and facilitates well-being. The authors found that outdoor breaks reduced depressive symptoms. Ideally, there would be easy access to a park or walking trail around the building; if this is not possible, a few benches, a picnic blanket, or a walk to the store next door can do wonders.
#3 Make sure employees are supporting each other rather than causing stress to other workers.
Social support is important in any work environment, especially in high-stress fields, such as mental health. In cases of employee conflict, be aware of the problems, accommodate them by creating distance, or by helping them work through their issues. Proactively hire employees who will be good to each other. Emotionally supportive workers are a tremendous asset to the longevity of employees in your office.
#4 Listen to employees, reward them for their work, offer them training and new skills, and make changes in the workplace environment when possible.
Promotions, praise, raises, or even small gifts can make a big difference in worker satisfaction. However, giving employees a feeling of job security and improving their marketability will also help them feel happier and healthier. Supporting supervisors in these ways is just as important.
#5 Keep up with specific mental health needs of employees. Offer periodic check-ins and make sure employees can get therapy if they need it.
Teaching self-care, including meditation, monitoring, and coping skills, is beneficial, but the help shouldn’t stop there. Monitor employees to make sure they’re receiving adequate care. Hiring fewer full-time employees with access to health care and therapy in lieu of many part-time employees can reduce workplace depression.
Countless studies have shown that the work environment impacts the physical and mental health of employees. The experiences of an employee, including natural and ambient light, smell, sound, temperature, and exposure to allergens, may affect their overall mood. However, creating a stable physical work environment is only part of the solution. Employees should also feel safe in their jobs, supported by their co-workers, and listened to by their supervisors. Offering employees social support, access to mental health services, and regular mental health check-ins can help prevent and stabilize mood disorders. At Casa Recovery, we help with mental health monitoring skills that you need to improve the quality of life of your employees. For resources, therapy, and coping skills, visit Casa Recovery. You can call or text us at (888) 928-2272 to discuss what we offer and how we can help you or your employees with your workplace mental health needs.