Weekly Editorial

Addressing Workplace Mental Health and Wellness Challenges

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • October 2, 2023

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Have you had a chance to look over the latest I Care Employee Wellness Survey findings shared in Stefanie Ince’s article in the October issue of viewpoint magazine?

While things seem to be improving, overall health and wellness in the office remain a struggle for many. Mental health, in particular, has been a struggle for many who feel unmoored by changes in office culture and work from home policies that are all over the board.

The National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation reported that symptoms of anxiety in the office since the beginning of the pandemic have tripled, depression symptoms have nearly quadrupled and 75% of 18-to-24 year old respondents have reported having at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom. According to its study, these mental health issues are affecting motivation at work, team morale, productivity, stress levels and work/life balance.

Since the pandemic, workers have struggled with job loss (or the risk of job loss), feelings of isolation, juggling childcare and work, not having proper furniture, technology or supplies, and managing an expanded workload. Anecdotally, I find a lot of friends and colleagues struggling in the workplace as well.

Some want to work fully from home and are irritated that their employer (and a growing number of other companies) are forcing them back into the office — at least part of the work week. Others want to work from the office, but find their once-active workplaces ghost towns, lacking the camaraderie and collaboration they used to have in abundance. Regardless of what workers say they want, the workplace is downright depressing for many right now.

As an employer, there’s much you can do to improve the mood of the office and in the process, help improve the mental health of the workplace.

If you are compelled to continue work-from-home or hybrid workplace models, you need to continue to support employees (and make sure they are engaged and productive at home). It’s not easy. Workers who choose to work from home are reporting that they are being passed over for promotions, feeling disengaged when they virtually check in to meetings and missing all the benefits of a company’s culture. Again, if determined to keep a work-from-home scheme, it is important to bridge those gaps. That will include investments in better video communication setups, virtual tracking of productivity and programs to somehow connect those workers to the office.

Again, if you are hybrid, you also need to boost connectivity for those coming into the office. Many hybrid offices feel empty and I’ve talked to many hybrid workers who don’t know why they bother coming into the office when no one is there. That needs to change if the hybrid model continues.

All of us went through a traumatic experience during the pandemic. And though we’d all like to forget it happened and move on, it’s truly tough for some workers. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But starting with compassion is one. Reaching out to INDEAL Cares is another, with many resources to help employers in our industry whose workers are struggling.

INDEAL Cares is working everyday to improve the workplace experience and empowering individuals within the commercial furniture industry in North America through workplace tools, education, and support in four areas: Active Living, Disease Prevention, Mental Health, and Spine Health. Reach out today at info@indealcares.org.

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