Work, Stress and Health
Do the demands and pressures of work impact your stress levels and your health? Does your work make it difficult to establish or maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or do you work in an environment that promotes health and well-being?
Last May people gathered from around the world at the Conference on Occupational Stress and Health to discuss just those questions. The conference was aimed at understanding how to protect workers from workplace stress, and also, how health can be promoted in the workplace.
Mental Health and Work
Anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are common in the workplace, according to Anthony LaMontagne, ScD in Monitor on Psychology (September, 2013). Some of these problems may be caused by factors in the work place, but even when they are not, they have an impact on work and workplace programs can be of benefit in addressing them.
LaMontagne suggests three workplace interventions to address mental health problems: reduce work related risk-factors, promote positive elements of work and address mental health problems directly, regardless of cause.
Bullying, long hours and job insecurity are examples of the types of risk-factors that can contribute to employee anxiety and depression. Taking these problems seriously and developing programs to address them can go a long way towards alleviating stress for workers and improving mental well-being.
Having a sense of confidence and a belief in your own capabilities has long been associated with improved mental well-being. And for many, work provides them with those feelings of self-confidence. A job well done, completing complicated tasks effectively and solving problems can all lead to a sense of self-assurance. But some jobs and some job environments don't promote a sense of capability to the same degree. In either case, LaMontagne argues that we should increase our efforts to build up the positives that can be a part of work.
In efforts to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity, employers have been increasingly open to mental health promotion programs. These programs are designed to help employees with mental health problems, regardless of the cause of the problem.
Stress and work often go hand-in-hand. However, work is also a prime environment for addressing stress and other mental health problems. "People come to work with an understanding that they are going to follow direction, take instruction, be part of a team and learn new skills," says L. Casey Chosewood, MD, chair of a conference session on Total Worker Health. Those attitudes can be an excellent foundation for health information and interventions.