It’s interesting to think that not too long ago, the topic of mental health was taboo. As a society, we’ve come a long way with opening up and speaking publicly to spread awareness on mental health issues. And we need to continue the conversation – it’s not over! 

The workplace is one arena that is in the spotlight when discussing mental health, especially now that many businesses and organizations are back to the in-person hustle after the pandemic died down. Whether employees find their way back to the brick-and-mortar, continue to work in their home office habitat, or enjoy a hybrid work model, the role of mental health in the workplace must be acknowledged. Not only that but the function of technology as it relates to mental health challenges and solutions should be addressed. 

Mental health, the workplace, and technology are all intertwined. Fostering a healthy work environment benefits individuals, and understanding how each affects the other is imperative to a happy and thriving career. 


The Impact of the Workplace Environment on Mental Health

As we navigate the labyrinth of modern workplaces, it’s essential to acknowledge their impact on our mental well-being. From relentless deadlines to interpersonal dynamics, the workplace environment is a melting pot of stressors that can shape us psychologically. Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety are skyrocketing, and often, people report their 9-5 as a major trigger. 

In a study by the American Psychological Association titled Stress in America 2023: A Nation Recovering from Collective Trauma, researchers surveyed individuals and found the following: “Adults ages 35 to 44 also experienced the highest increase in mental health diagnoses—from 31% reported in 2019 to 45% in 2023—though adults ages 18 to 34 still reported the highest rate of mental illnesses at 50% in 2023.” While a 14% difference may not seem much to some, that can be looked at as an additional 14 out of every 100 employees are struggling. And those are just the people who are reporting. 

In an article about mental health and the workplace by the World Health Organization, they list several of the causes of mental health risks, which include but are not limited to:

  • Inadequate utilization of skills or mismatched skill sets for job requirements;
  • Overwhelming workloads, high pace, or insufficient staffing levels;
  • Extended, socially isolating, or rigid working hours;
  • Lack of autonomy;
  • Hazardous or substandard physical work environments;
  • Organizational norms fostering detrimental behaviors;
  • Limited peer support or authoritarian managerial oversight;
  • Instances of violence, harassment, or bullying;
  • Instances of discrimination or marginalization;
  • Unclear job responsibilities;
  • Instances of under- or over-promotion;
  • Job insecurity, insufficient compensation, or negligible investment in career growth; and
  • Struggles to balance the demands of work and personal life.

Ultimately, these risks affect individuals, the workplace, and its bottom line. 


Technology and Mental Health: The Bad and the Helpful 

The Bad

While technology has undoubtedly contributed positively to our lives, its presence can also affect our mental well-being. Constant exposure to screens, the pressure of what we see on social media, and the digital overload from what we see on the news can create increased stress levels and feelings of anxiety. Unhealthy over-exposure to blue light throws off our natural internal clock, adding more fuel to the fire. 

Technology can help productivity in the workplace but can also hinder it. Constant notifications on a smartwatch throughout the day and the nagging desire to continuously check social media hurt overall daily goals and outcomes. 

A poll by the Pew Research Center showed that one in five workers agree using social media hurts their job performance. 

Even the high expectations of using programs and multi-tasking apps at work can take a toll on employees. In an article by Calm, the leading meditation software company, they discuss multiple studies that show technology isn’t always a positive addition to the workplace in decreasing stress. 

“Calm’s research found that 45% of employees worry that AI will take over their jobs, and 53% have experienced anxiousness or nervousness due to the rapid pace of technology developments, including AI, in their workplace.”

They also discuss how employees report being tired and anxious from being stuck behind a computer all day while feeling pressured to always “be on” during the work day. 

Even though technology can negatively impact overall mental health, especially in the workplace, it can also contribute positively and solve various woes. 

The Helpful

Technology has the potential to be a powerful ally in promoting mental well-being in today’s fast-paced world. Accessible mental health apps and online support communities offer invaluable resources for self-care and connection. From meditation apps to virtual therapy sessions, technology empowers individuals to prioritize their mental health. 

Tech solutions for overall well-being are ubiquitous and are popping up left and right. Companies know the mental health business is worth billions, so why not capitalize on that with technology products that benefit individuals? 

The business Calm, mentioned above, even got in on a slice of the pie. They have a product called Calm Business that companies and organizations can purchase to use as their “primary mental wellness benefits partner.” This is a perfect example of how technology in the workplace can help with stress, anxiety, and pressure throughout the day. 

In an article for Forbes, the author agrees that employee well-being impacts the bottom line and describes a few helpful tools for promoting a healthy mental state while on the job. 

  • Microsoft Teams and Slack can be utilized during work hours to hold a video session with a therapist.
  • Businesses use mental health apps to ‘“take time out” to exercise or meditate.
  • Activity trackers can remind employees to take a brain break, go for a walk, etc. 
  • Collaboration solutions analyze data to help measure employee morale.
  • AI products, such as brain-sensing earbuds, monitor levels of stress and distraction.

It is obvious that not all technological resources hinder employees in the workplace. Some help with efficiency, productivity, and an overall sense of calm. 


Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace 

In today’s tech-driven workplaces, promoting mental health is crucial. Ultimately, this helps retain employees, creates a positive culture, and makes happy and healthy employees more productive. Sweeping issues under the proverbial rug and refusing to acknowledge company policies, culture, and technology all impact individuals’ mental health is not wise nor helpful. 

Employees can manage stress by setting digital boundaries, taking regular breaks, and practicing mindfulness. Creating an atmosphere of openly discussing mental health, providing resources like counseling, and promoting work-life balance is essential. Encouraging support among colleagues and offering flexible work arrangements fosters a healthier mindset. 

By integrating these strategies, organizations boost individual resilience and cultivate a culture of care and compassion, leading to a more engaged and fulfilled workforce.

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