Workplace environment major factor in wellbeing of employees
Dr Felice Watts

 09 Oct 2017 - 11:22

Workplace environment major factor in wellbeing of employees

By Fazeena Saleem / The Peninsula

With many of us spending a large proportion of our time at work, workplace environments have become a major factor in determining the overall wellbeing and mental health of employees, says an expert.

Workplace initiatives to promote mental health and wellbeing can have a lasting impact not only on employees’ personal productivity, it also positively impacts on the overall health of the organisation. A negative working environment caused by stress and anxiety, may lead to mental health issues which can in turn lead to absenteeism and lost productivity, says Dr Felice Watts, the Division Chief of Adult Psychiatry for Women’s Mental Health, Sidra Medical and Research Center.

Mental health in the workplace is the theme of World Mental Health Day 2017 which is observed on October 10 (tomorrow) every year. The overall objective of the observance is to awareness of mental health issues and mobilising efforts in support of better mental health.

Globally, more than 300 million people suffer from depression, the leading cause of disability. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many of these people live with both. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

Depression and anxiety disorders are common mental disorders that have an impact on our ability to work, and to work productively.

“Many of us spend more time in the work place, which is why pressures at work, including stress, poor management and communication practices and unrealistic expectations about deliverables and deadlines can have a major impact on our wellbeing. If someone undergoes stress and anxiety at work, it can affect their concentration and become a hindrance in carrying out duties. This can later lead to absenteeism and lack of motivation. These factors can also lead to reduced energy levels, sleep disorders eventually causing depression and poor health. It is critical that a person seeks counselling and medical help quickly,” Dr Watts told The Peninsula.

It is essential to build awareness about the importance of mental health and maintaining a healthy work life balance among the employees as well as the employer. A supportive work environment will promote the wellbeing and productivity of all employees. Having support systems in place can have a positive impact across all levels of an organisation. “Mental health is equally as important as physical health. There are many initiatives that companies can undertake to help their employees — by providing access to counsellors to offer guidance on how to address mental health challenges, wellbeing workshops including meditation or yoga, or conduct small team building sessions to recognise good performance or even consider flexible working hours,” said Dr Watts.

Dr Watts is part of Sidra’s wellness clinic which provides essential mental health support and treatment for women during pregnancy and for up to a year after giving birth. She says that support to women given at work place during the postnatal is essential.

“At least one in ten women suffer from postnatal depression internationally. Women returning to work after maternity leave, often need more support or understanding from their workplace. They shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or anxious about the fact that they require some amount of flexibility in order to maintain their balance as an employee, a wife and a mother. It is essential for employers to be aware that some women may also need medical support for postnatal depression or stress. The more people we can encourage to talk about mental health and support them in their efforts to seek help, the more lives we can save from the ravages of mental health illnesses,” she said.