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PART 1: MENTAL WELLBEING AT WORK
Introduction and Issue
There was a time when employers did not use to pay much heed to the mental health of their employees thinking that it should not be affecting their performance at work (Kirsh, 2000). But today, unlike older days many employers understand that their employees’ health has a massive impact on their productivity which influences organizational performance and competitiveness. Moreover, with increasing awareness about the correlation of mental health and performance of employees at work, employers are recognizing the importance of their role in better promoting the health and productivity of workers (Brand-Rauf, Burton, McCunney, 2001). However, even though with the increase in awareness, this issue still persists in today’s work culture as well.
The statistics about mental health issues in the workplace are quite staggering. According to a study by the Mental Health Charity Mind (2018), mental health conditions at work places are quite stagnant with 48% (almost half) of all the people (more than 44,000 people) in the study responding that they have experienced at least one mental health issue in their current job. Moreover, only about half of the people who had issues regarding poor metal health, talked to their employer about it. This means that every 4th person in the UK is suffering in silence. Just in the UK, the social and economic cost of mental health problems is more than £100 billion each year and it is also the number one reason for sickness absence with over 70 million work days lost (Gov.uk, 2018).
As mental illnesses can have a serious risk to the success of businesses and organizations (Stixrud, 2012), it is crucial to ensure managers could effectively deal with mental health issues when they arise in the workplace. People who poses major mental illnesses usually experience restlessness, poor concentration, irritability, decreased motivation, fatigue, and reduced decision-making capacity, which may not let them perform to their best potential (Kessler et al., 2008). Decreased work productivity due to depression and anxiety is noticeable across all types of work activity, including interpersonal communications with employers, clients or customers, and co-workers as well as time management tasks (Sanderson, Tilse, Nicholson, Old- enburg, & Graves, 2007). In addition of having profound impact not only on absenteeism but also on decreased productivity, poor time management, staff turnover and work-related accidents, innovation capacity and creativity of an individual are also inhibited due to narrowing of cognitive and behavioural flexibility which is all due to poor mental health (De Frank, 2012).
Although mental health is just as important as physical health, identifying and dealing with mental illnesses in the workplace is more difficult. Main challenge is the stigma which still surrounds this topic. What more is that employees having mental health issues are reluctant to ask for professional help until a late stage mainly because of the other people’s prejudices and fear of being labelled (Race & Furnham, 2014). These costs can be avoided if managers and co-workers understand the nuances of the issue and respond appropriately in order to get the most from employees with mental illnesses.
To further explain myself and to better understand how to counter mental illness at work, I intend to use two theories: Adam’s equity theory and Maslow’s theory of motivation.
While Adams’ Equity Theory calls for a fair balance to be struck between an employee’s inputs (hard work, skill level, acceptance, enthusiasm, and so on) and an employee’s outputs (salary, benefits, intangibles such as recognition, and so on) (Pritchard, 1969), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid (McLeod, 2007). And though they are two different models, they both are meant to fulfil one combined goal of keeping the employees at work place destressed and motivated for the most productivity and efficiency.
Equity theory can be explained as a balancing scale where one side is the input which typically includes efforts, loyalty, hard work, commitment, skill, ability, adaptability, flexibility, acceptance of others and determination while the other side represents outputs which can be in form of financial rewards (such as salary, benefits, perks), recognition, reputation, responsibility, sense of achievement, praise, stimulus, sense of advancement/growth, job security. According to the equity theory, finding fair balance between inputs and outputs serves to ensure a strong and productive relationship is achieved with the employee, with the overall result being contented, motivated employees.
Maslow’s model depicts the hierarchical levels and from the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to needs higher up.
Although both these theories have been criticized for being overly-schematic and lacking in scientific grounding, it presents an intuitive and potentially useful theory of human motivation and adds onto better management practices which are required when dealing with mental wellbeing issues.
Example 1 (negative)
(Ehrenkranz, 2016; Szathmary, 2016)
One of the biggest and most influential tech company Apple workers complain about ‘toxic work environment’ and occurred mental health issues because of it. Many had experienced some kind of bullying at work, and they did not feel comfortable telling something to managers as they felt that no one will care and take them seriously because they felt nobody cares about them. One worker went as far as to attempting to commit suicide twice mainly because of work environment in Apple and nobody gave any help because of the stigma as that workers said. Another worker told he left Apple because of bigotry, discrimination and racism at work. Same employee also claimed that he heard managers joking about anyone going out on mental health break being not the right fit in the company. He also told that his department had one of the highest employee turnover rates because of the stress at work. As per him, if anyone talked against Apple, everyone would laugh at you and you would be isolated.
Several reports and interviews in which employees of Apple, former and current, attributed their mental health issues to the work environment at Apple, often described as toxic. In each instance where the employees raised their concerns to the human resources or their managers, their complaints were either met with silence or retaliation.
”Apple tries very hard to hold an iron curtain around the news that happens on its campus, because it does not look good for their image to let the public know about the suicides, suicide attempts and mental breakdowns that occur on a daily basis”, another employee told.
But it’s not just Apple who faces these issues. They are part and parcel of a larger, more pervasive mental health crisis which are believed to be spiked by the intense and hostile working conditions of the corporate world.
Example 2 (positive)
When on one hand we are met with work environment often described as toxic, we should also focus on the sunny side as well. It is well-known fact that Google strives to keep their employees happy and motivated, offering many perks from free food to free classes, lectures from global thought leaders to free sports and other leisure activities. Also, Google really cares about healthy life therefore all workers in google have access to many healthcare choices, including fitness centres, physicians and healthy and nutritious meals in their cafes (Careers.google.com). It is very important because it is not a secret that physical and mental health are very close. What more is that managers in Google understand that their employees need to have quality time to recharge, take care of personal stuff or just to enjoy time with family and therefore they offer flexible working hours to meet everyone needs (Careers.google.com). Because of that, employees working there feel valued and have lesser reasons to stress out
A research from Warwick University on the impact of employee happiness onto the employer’s bottom line explained that investment from companies like Google towards supporting employees has risen employee’s satisfaction as a result. For Google itself, employees’ satisfaction rose by 37% which proves making workers happier and improving their mental wellbeing really pays off (Oswald, Proto, Sgroi, 2009) because this research also found out that higher level of employees’ happiness is associated with higher level of productivity.
In the above two examples we saw two tech giants, both very successful in their fields but operating on a very different workforce environment than each other. Apple on one hand tries to get the most out of its employees by providing them with pile loads of work, Google on the other hand tries to balance the work and other activities in its offices and thus increasing productivity. Apple’s methods do get the results while it is at the cost of its employees’ mental health, Google tries to play smart and invest in its human resources for the increased efficiency which in turns ranks it amongst the best places to work over and over again.
The easiest way to improve efficiency and productivity at work would seem to fire the underperforming employees which are suffering from stress, depression or other mental health issues but that would actually become another huge issue for the company because of the legalities involved.
With firing out of sight, another option we are left with is better management practices and Goetzel et al (2002) states that first step towards better management in terms of employees’ mental health and well-being might include education and training programs that teach workers how to spot mental illnesses early on, and how to tackle these problems effectively. Next step could be teaching workers stress management and coping skills. Awareness regarding mental health issues at workplace should be raised and various support programmes could be started to help people already facing those issues.
Majority of employers are very concerned about rising health care costs, however, employers like Google show that this kind of investment really pays off as happy employees equals more productive employees and also because of employees’ turnover.
Literature suggests that there are three main limitations of current organizational approaches (Caruso & Myette, 2008), and that the development of managerial capabilities in this area deserves greater attention. First indicator that mental health problems are generally not well managed is lack of knowledge and relevant skills while dealing with such issues in organizations. Another study reported that three quarters of managers surveyed agree that it is stressful to work with depressed employees and only one quarter of managers received any mental health training from their organization (Martin, 2010). Second limitation is the attitude of managers that limits the effectiveness of any strategies that are in place. Many managers still deny the existence of mental illnesses among employees and many believe that employees mental health is not organization’s business (Cleary, Whiteford, Hilton & Sheridan, 2008). Moreover, the stigma towards these issues also negatively impact how employees with mental issues are managed and often results in discrimination regarding employment and career advancement of employees with mental illness (Martin, Woods & Dawkins (2015). And the third problem is under diagnosis of illnesses such as depression and stress and therefore these being undertreated (Sanderson, Tilse, Nicholson, Oldenburg & Graves, 2007).
Taking into consideration all the issues and theories and remedies we can deduce that mental wellbeing at work is still an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Dealing with it is important and I believe a start could be made by putting the employees first. Richard Branson has said, “The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers” (Virgin.com, n.d.). Investment in employees would improve their job satisfaction which would improve productivity and therefore such investment would pay off.
PART 2: Reflective Statement
In this statement I intend to reflect on the challenges in task 1 and task 2 from the seminars which arose in relation to my values in a working environment. From the understanding of how I imagine successful team I understood my values in work and it helped me to understand the focus areas in team work and the challenges it brings. Consequently, I learned of the areas which I want to develop. Furthermore, I found a connection to my chosen managerial issue from second tasks.
Group projects in the seminars of the module HR9405 helped me to understand that my imagination of a successful team is, and I find description in literature which matches it as Marquardt, Choon Seng and Goodson (2010) states that “successful teams complete their tasks, maintain good social relations among its members, and promote members’ personal and professional development.” Accordingly, my values in a group works are closely related to each other. To describe them, I would categorize them into two sections. First section is related to completing tasks and doing the work. In every group work, I value commitment, efficiency and productiveness at whatever task I’m assigned. Second section of my values would include values related to relations among team members. Open-mindedness to all ideas, respect to all team members, promoting each other’s growth and enjoyable atmosphere are key things in the team for me.
From the description of ideal team, the main challenges that emerged for me ware lack of efficient planning in project 1 and understanding the importance of emotional intelligence in project 2. First challenge was not dealt very successfully. Even though atmosphere in the group was very enjoyable and it was easy to reach joint decision; work quality was not the best as it was not efficient and productive enough. It showed lack of time management and planning skills which are essential for good managers (Farrell, 2017). However, I believe that our team had quite high level of emotional intelligence in project 2 and therefore we dealt well with second challenge. Many studies have shown that teams make better decisions, are more creative and productive when members achieve high level of participation, cooperation, and collaboration within a team. These conditions cannot occur without well-handled emotions, so groups benefit to a high level by building their emotional intelligence (Druskat & Wolff, 2001). Because to that, I think that developing even higher level of emotional intelligence is very beneficial.
Also, I think that it is important to mention that researching on how Amazon treats their employees in second project helped me to realize that a company should care not only about its customers but also about its employees and that treatment has a direct impact to mental state of the employees. In terms of my chosen contemporary issue and developed emotional intelligence, I can agree that atmosphere in a work place is crucial for good well-being and higher productivity and therefore managers should care about it.
In order to improve my planning and develop better emotional intelligence I will implement two major things. First of all, I will always establish specific performance goals as goals serving to teams’ purpose as it is a powerful engine of performance (Katzenbach & Smith, 2005). Also, having clear goals helps with planning (Cottrell, 2013). Secondly, I will read more about emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills and implement founded strategies as it will increase my awareness about this topic (Wheeler, 2005) and I believe that I will benefit from reading the most as I want to have a solid knowledge before implementing any strategies. One study even claimed that most productive workers were also those who has a higher emotional intelligence (Cavallo & Brienza, 2006). Due to that I believe that in second semester my planning and interpersonal skills will improve.
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