The Mental Health Council of Australia has pointed out that negative organisational factors such as excessive pressure and long hours at work can lead to mental health problems, including stress and anxiety. This impacts not only individual health and wellbeing, but also organisational productivity.
However, as the Mental Health Council of Australia and the World Health Organisation also make clear, work has the potential to promote mental wellbeing. This is because work offers:
- Time structure;
- Social contact;
- A sense of collective effort and purpose;
- A sense of social identity;
- A sense of accomplishment and self-worth;
- A place to learn new skills and ; and
- Regular activity.
The extent to which particular work environments do promote mental wellbeing is influenced by organisational factors, including:
- Demands— issues such as workload, work patterns and the workplace environment;
- Control— how much say the person has in the way they do their work;
- Support— the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues;
- Relationships with others in the workplace, potentially including conflict and mechanisms for dealing with unacceptable behaviour;
- Role— the extent to which people understand their role in the organisation, and whether aspects of their role are in conflict; and
- Change— how changes both large and small are managed and communicated in the organisation.
These organisational factors are open to influence, not only from senior management, but from line managers and supervisors.
For example, managers and supervisors influence the extent to which workers:
- Feel valued for the work they do, or feel that they’re taken for granted;
- Have a clear idea about what is expected of them, or feel confused and overwhelmed by work responsibilities;
- Are exposed to difficult working conditions, such as unrealistic deadlines;
- Are given the opportunity to communicate constructively with senior management;
- Are included in planning and decision making relevant to their area of work;
- Have the opportunity to utilise and develop skills;
- Are encouraged to develop supportive social relationships in the workplace;
- Will be provided with an opportunity for early intervention, if they seem to be struggling with stress, depression or other health problems at work; and
- Will be supported to remain at, or return to work, if they suffer from a health condition.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has developed evidence-based Management Standards to assist organisations tackle the causes of work-related stress, and prevent the lost productivity and physical and mental illness that may result.
The management standards help managers and supervisors work towards a situation in which employees to indicate that they:
- Are able to cope with the demands of their jobs;
- Are able to have a say about the way they do their work;
- Receive adequate information and support from their colleagues and superiors;
- Are not subjected to unacceptable behaviours, eg bullying at work;
- Understand their roles and responsibilities; and
- Are frequently engaged and consulted when undergoing an organisational change.
The Management Standards are available online here. Other online resources that assisted in the writing of this article include this resource for building team resilience, this fact sheet about work and mental health from the Mental Health Council of Australia, and this paper, developed by the World Health Organisation and the International Labor Organisation.