More and more people are diagnosed with poor mental health
Stress and depression are projected to be the main causes of illness in 2020. Today, 35.000 Danes daily call in sick due to poor mental work environment. And, according to The National Health Profile 2017, published by the Danish Health Authority, young people aged 16 to 24 have the poorest mental health, particularly women are not thriving mentally.
We therefore desperately need to break the negative trend, not just in Denmark, but worldwide. Danish managers can lead the way to a mentally healthy work environment. We already know the tools, but need to focus more on preventive care – and a mentally healthy work environment should be among any company’s top three priorities.
Development goal to promote healthier work environment
The UN’s development goal 8 focusses on protecting workers and promoting a safe and stable work environment. If managers then wish to focus on a sustainable work environment, they first need to define the term "safe and stable work environment".
"Protect labour rightsand promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment".
For more information, see sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg8.
Sustainability: trend or new practice?
The UN’s development goals are quite popular at the moment. We talk about sustainability in all sectors, from toy to food production. However, is sustainability just “the new black” or can we talk about a real shift in perspective and a new practice?
A lot indicates that both world leaders and business leaders understand that something has to be done, if we are to succeed with the challenges we face in regards to climate change, geopolitical changes, technological changes, pollution, etc., both at a national and global level. However, do we also understand that we also need to focus on the declining mental health among common people, particularly certain social groups?
Danish Government Stress Panel
There does seem to be an awareness of the importance of mental health. In 2018, the Danish government appointed a Stress Panel, consisting of several experts, to make suggestions for how to reduce stress in Denmark. So far, the Stress Panel has published three out of twelve recommendations on how to reduce stress. Many companies already have procedures and policies on how to handle stress and employees affected by stress. Yet with so many Danes on sick leave due to a poor mental work environment, are these procedures then truly effective?
We already know how to strengthen mental health at work
It may seem like a paradox, as we already know so much on how to strengthen mental health and mental work environment, for example through mindfulness and mediation, Appreciative Inquiry Management, coaching, LEAN, social capital, knowledge sharing, conflict management, etc. Research results demonstrate that the before mentioned all contribute to creating sustainable work environments, sustainable cultures and greater well-being for both workers and managers.
People as resources
Meditating and practicing mindfulness can certainly contribute to reducing stress and are concrete tools to strengthen the mental work environment. However, these tools can also be a way for organisations to get more production out of workers, since many organisations have long considered workers as resources that can be broken down into numbers, just like the climate, the environment, etc. And that kind of thinking is not sustainable.
Sustainable mental work environment
Modern companies must also think sustainably, when considering the mental work environment. One could possibly work from the following hypothesis, when considering mental health at work:
There is evidence that people can die from poor work environments (both physically and mentally). Sustainable organsiations therefore focus on caring for the human resource, so future generations are not harmed in the work place.
Mental health at work must be on the agenda
We already have the knowledge and tools to strengthen mental health in both Danish and global workplaces, but we must be better at using them at work. Moreover, we must hurry, if WHO’s prediction is correct – which it seems to be, so far.
According to the Danish Stress Panel, Danish managers need better education and training in strengthing the mental work environment. Education is certainly important, but a healthy mental work environment must be part of a more strategic approach and should be part of any organisation’s top three MWB (must win battle).
Article by Jeanett Kiy, Cphbusiness.
Jeanett Kiy is an LL.M and organizational psychology facilitator. She is an experienced manager, teacher and consultant. Jeanett is a professor at Cphbusiness and teaches management. In addition, she is the Project Manager of the project Sustainable Working Spaces: mental health must be part of a company’s top three MWB (must win battle).