Psychology of Mental Health Exam Section B- Mental Health at Work Question


Intro Part 1: What is Wellbeing & Why Care?

There are many different ideas on the definition of wellbeing at how it should be maintained to promote good mental health at work. For instance...

According to Leka, Griffiths and Cox (2007), a healthy work environment is one in which there is not only an absence of harmful conditions but an abundance of healthy promoting ones.

Warr (1987) suggests that, good mental health at work is the positive experience of; autonomy, aspiration, competence and affective wellbeing.

Levi (1987) defines a healthy work environment as a dynamic state of mind characterised by a reasonable harmony between workers' ability, needs, expectations, environmental demands and opportunities.

Mental health is a national issue with statistics showing that; 

- 13.4 million working days are lost annually to stress, anxiety and depression.

- UK cost of poor mental health at work is £30 billion.

- Mental health problems are the leading cause of illness and disability in the UK.

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Intro Part 2: What causes ill Mental Health?

There are many contributing factors to poor mental health in a workplace such as; 

- Lack of support from with colleragues/ social exclusion

- Lack of guidance from supervisors

- Too much workload/ unrealistic goals and deadlines

- Job insecurity

- Dark, windowless, cubicles> unpleasant work environment/ atmosophere

And of course the big one..


The mental state, wellbeing and happiness of employees is a crucial component in creating and maintaining a postive and productive work environment. 

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P1: Is stress always bad? What about Eustress?

Work induced stress isn’t always bad for your health, it can help us to attain optimum performance. For instance...

Kaufer & Kirby (2013) conducted a study on rats and found that brief stressful events caused the stem cells in their brains to multiply into new cells. Resulting in increased manual performance after two weeks, suggesting that stress improves cognitive function in the long run.

Furthermore, stress can motivate you to succeed as eustress can help you enter a state of flow (a heighted sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity).

Mihaly (2004) states that flow can be achieved in a work place and is largely driven by pressure to succeed.


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P2: How does Stress Effect Employees work?

Maslach (1982), suggets that too much stress can lead to burning out- emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and lack of personal acomplishment


In Japan death from overwork is called 'Karoshi'.

Saurel-Cubizolles (2014), found that pregnant women working in unsatisfactory jobs weremore likely to give birth prematurely

Friedman and Roseman (1974), found that coronary heart disease and cancer are linked to stress and hostility. 

Chang (2007) evaluated the stress reactions of healthy adults and found that people who react more strongly to emotional and stressful situations are more likely to have high cholesterol. 

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P3: Organisational Effect of ill Mental health?

Poor mental health doesn’t only affect employees, it also effects organisations because like a common cold, when employees are sick it influences their performance and attendance. For instance, poor mental health results in;

-       A lot of work loss days 

-       High turnover of staff

-       Poor service

-       Errors or accidents

When mental health isn't tackled in the workplace, it can become an expensive problem to solve. For instance, NICE (2009) found that;

- Absenteeism- 40% of total due to poor mental health

- Presenteeism costs 1.5 as much as absenteeism

- 8% of turnover is due to psychological stress 

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P4: How can organisations help employees?

Having an effective HR team or links with mental services in place is great as it means that employees have someone to go to if they feel that they are struggling. WHO (2002), proposed a health strategy to promote good mental and general health in the work place:  

-       Health education to raise awareness of factors affecting health and well-being;

-       Screening programmes to detect risk factors or early signs of disease;  

-       Action programmes to do something about them.

Farmer (2017) recommend that organisations and employers:

-       Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan

-       Develop mental health awareness among employees and the support available to them

-       Provide effective people management

-       Routine check-in's on employees mental health and wellbeing

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P5: How can employees improve work themselves?

Although happiness is subjective and there are differing definitions of wellbeing, Fisher (2010) argued that happiness and optimism are linked to wellbeing, self-fulfilment and pursuing meaningful goals. When employees are happy in their environment their mental health at work improves and job stress is relieved. However, employees can also actively help themselves to improve their wellbeing at work. Employees can achive this by; Seeking help by attending therapy sessions, talking to a GP or member of the organisations HR team. 

Mental health organisation MIND proposed a ‘5-a-day’ solution for improving mental health at work. This involves;

-       Speaking to co-worker’s face to face

-       Exercising e.g. taking stairs or walking to work

-       Notice moments, be mindful of people, surroundings and nature

-       Share, be more community orientated & giving

-       Educate, set goals for yourself

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P6: Do these organisational interventions work?

Research shows that a positive working environment can improve mental health and wellbeing. For instance, Warr (1989) and Jahoda (1958) suggests that work can boost mental health through;

- Autonomy & Aspiration

- Competence

- Affective Wellbeing

- Self -worth &Identity 

Furthermore, studies show that when employees are happy at work their performance is better. For example, CIPD (2006) claim that engaged employees take less sick leave, perform better, are more likely to recommend the organisation they work for, and are less likely to quit.

Towers-Perin (2006) found that where staff are highly engaged (positive attitude), organisations reported a 19.2% increase in financial increase in contrast to the 32.7% drop when engagement is low.

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Conclusion Part 1: Organisational Strategies

To conclude, mental health is a very important issue particularly in the workplace as many of us spend a large portion of the week there and a happy workforce equals a happy work place. To create the most productive and mentally healthy work environment, both employees and employers must work together.

Employers can help by supporting their employees, checking in on their wellbeing and putting the effective schemes and strategies in place:

WHO (2002) discuss Employee Assistant Programmes which are company sponsored programmes designed to alleviate and assist in eliminating workplace stress caused by personal problems. These programmes typically provide supportive, diagnostic, referral and counselling treatment services.

The Mental Health Foundation (2014) recommend providing managers with training with organisations such as Mental Health First Aid England to help them recognise mental health concerns and gain knowledge in how to handle this.


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Conclusion Part 2: Individual Intervention

Employees can help both themselves and their colleagues improve their wellbeing at work by;

- Staying hydrated and keeping active throughout the day as research shows that inactivity and dehydration can affect cognitive function.

- Following MIND'S '5-a-day' strategy

- Most importantly communicating any concerns or issues with a manager or Human Resource Officer.

When employees and employers work together to tackle mental health and wellebing at work, it benefits everyone.


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