Have you ever gone to your boss to talk about how you are feeling at work and have them say to you, “You should consider yourself blessed you have a job?” Here is another one, “You should be happy you have a job.” As if in asking the question, you must choose between having a roof over your head or being in a good mental space and valued at work. Many of us have been in that position.
Our mental health should be important to us, but it should be equally important to employers. Employers often take the view that how happy we are at work is solely up to us. Yes, how we approach life each day is ultimately up to us; however, employers play a significant role in the environment we walk into each day. Caring about employees mental health must mean more than just providing a number to call EAP. While having that resource is undoubtedly important, the buck should not stop there.
Employees are asked to come into work every day and invest in an organization with the hard work they put in daily. It should be incumbent on employers to invest equally as much in employees by providing an environment where workers feel valued, supported, and given the opportunity to thrive. It is also imperative that organizations provide a psychologically safe work environment where workers are encouraged to speak up and out and that their ideas and concerns are heard and solicited.
We also need to be as conscious about our mental wellness, as we are about our physical. Many of us will spend more hours at work than we do at home. Yet, we only think of our mental health in the context of what we do when we leave the office. Mental wellness is not something you work at only after you leave work for the day. It should be a 24/7 commitment to ourselves, and that is why we must hold employers accountable for taking an active role.
How can you collaborate with employers and hold them accountable to make sure they are as engaged in your mental health as you are? For starters, when you are being interviewed for a job, take the time to ask questions. Employers interview you, but you also need to take the time to interview them to determine what kind of environment they support. It is not just about the number of vacation days and the salary they provide. Other benefits are critical to workplace happiness, and therefore, it is important to ask questions. See sample questions below.
- Do you prioritize work-life balance at this organization?
- What wellness initiatives do you have in place?
- Is feedback from employees solicited and encouraged?
- Do you offer succession planning/what development tools do you have in place?
- Do you have an employee recognition program and what does that consist of?
- Are employees encouraged to take on projects that give them an opportunity to showcase their talents?
- Do you support employees volunteer activities that occur during work hours?
- What activities do you support at work that allows the employees time to disconnect and engage with each other?
It is essential to ask questions like those above, because knowing the answers could be the difference between you being happy and fulfilled at work or not. The employer establishes what their expectations are in the interview, but you also get an opportunity to be transparent about what is important to you. If you did not ask these questions upfront, it is never too late. You can still have that conversation with your employer to discuss their core values and culture.
How you feel at work has a direct impact on how you feel outside of work and your overall wellbeing. Do not feel like you must take a backseat to your happiness. Yes, we are indeed blessed when we have a job. But that does not mean your happiness becomes less important simply because you acknowledge you are blessed. Being part of a culture that fosters positive mental health in the workplace, does not just benefit the employee. It benefits the employer as well. Happier employees are more productive employees. You are your own best advocate, and your voice should be heard!