Occupational health psychologist's tips for a workplace wellbeing revolution
Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health challenges is receding. In addition to the fact that employers are now more strongly directed to take care of the psychosocial stress, mental health challenges are dared to be talked about more openly and people know how to seek help for them. This is also clear from Terveystalo's statistics, where visits related to both anxiety disorders and depression have increased throughout the 2020s. Sari Nuikki, Terveystalo's leading occupational health psychologist, explains how mental well-being can be supported in the workplace with small everyday actions.
Increased visits related to mental wellbeing challenges indicate that people recognise that they need help and are not alone with their problems. Indeed, there are many things that can be done even before the challenges become deeper. Particularly if you recognise that you are experiencing harmful work-related stress, solutions can be found at work.
– If you are experiencing harmful stress in your own work, it is important to raise the issue with your supervisor and proactively try to modify your work in order to control the stress. This can help prevent the risk of burnout," says Nuikki.
Discussions with your supervisor should not be timid, as it is their job to look after the well-being of their subordinates. If the stress is work-related, it is their duty to help the employee find a balance between workload and recovery.
– It's great if a supervisor can help an employee to cope with challenging life situations by adapting his or her work. But you don't have to do everything on your own, as occupational health can help you even before you have a diagnosis or sick leave," says Nuikki.
A caring organisational culture dares to tackle difficult issues
Although the stigma associated with mental health disorders has dissipated, for some of us the threshold for disclosing our vulnerability is still very high. Nuikki encourages people to have the courage to ask a colleague how they are doing if they are worried about them.
– One way to raise the issue is to tell a colleague about your own observations and concerns and encourage them to talk to their supervisor," she says.
If necessary, it is a good idea to tell your co-worker about your concerns, but it is a good idea to mention it openly to your co-worker beforehand.
– Ultimately, the chaperone, as the employer's representative, has a key role to play in raising any changes or concerns with the employee and providing early intervention support," says Nuikki.
– If you identify challenges in your own coping, it's a good idea to take advantage of low-threshold mental wellbeing services offered by your employer or contact an occupational psychologist through your occupational health department. Prompt preventive support and referral for further treatment if needed is important in this situation. For example, brief psychotherapy in occupational health has been shown to have effective results in preventing mental health absenteeism and preventing diagnosis," adds Nuikki.
Update of the Occupational safety and health act and management of psychosocial stress
In the June update of the Occupational safety and health act, employers' obligations were specified, and today employers are also more strongly required to identify and manage psychosocial stress.
Harmful psychosocial load can be caused by, for example, an excessive amount of information, constant interruptions, difficult customer situations, excessive workload and problems in the functioning of the work community.
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