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promoting mental health in the Nigerian workplace

Promoting Mental Health in the Nigerian Workplace

Mental Health in the Nigerian workplace is in dire need of action. Mental health is one of the challenges that know no boundaries. it affects employers and employees alike. As a result, the workplace can be rendered unproductive by mental health challenges. This is why there is a need to have a great understanding of mental health in order to keep the workplace profitable.

 We can interpret mental health as a state of well-being in which we are confident in their abilities and can cope with the inevitable stresses of life while making meaningful contributions to their community. It includes our adaptability to internal and external environmental stress. This ability usually manifests in our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. 

Mental Health is therefore everyone’s business and should not concern only a particular set/type of people. It affects anyone; young or old, rich or poor, male or female. 

Mental Health In Nigeria

There are a lot of stigmas and misconceptions around mental health.

Our collective indifference and denial of the existence of mental health concerns is the biggest reason why these issues exist in such magnitude. There is also limiting traditions, beliefs, and customs. 

For many decades, people with mental problems have been deemed unserious, just like what we think of mental health problems. Whenever the talk of mental health problems and depression comes up, some of us scoff, unable to understand mental illness. 

These misconceptions are damaging. Some think people with mental health problems are violent and dangerous and incapable of being productive; or, that mental illness is the same as mental retardation and that it is impossible to live a full life even though mentally ill. Although most of these misconceptions have been disproved as unfounded by the World Health Organization, society’s mindset regarding mental health issues hasn’t shifted much. 

This general attitude towards mental health has had severe effects on our national workforce and because of that, we advocate for cultural reengineering in the workplace. 

With all that is going on in the country; insecurity, bad roads, recession, and inflation, it is no wonder we are facing mental health challenges of such magnitude.

Apart from what’s happening in the country, the workplace itself is an environment that has a significant impact on mental health. Thus, there is a prevalent need for Nigerian workplaces to start taking proactive actions to promote and ensure their workers’ mental and physical health.

But this is not only the responsibility of the workplace, all hands need to be on deck. Families, religion, NGOs, and even the government must also collaborate to reach this common goal. The goal should be to safeguard and promote good mental health among our workforce. 

How exactly can organizations ensure good mental health in the Nigerian workplace? What steps can they take to ensure their workers are in the best mental state? Read on to find out.

Steps Organizations Can Take to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

A 2019 study on mental health in the Nigerian Workplace revealed some shocking facts. 

 The study, titled, “The 2019 Nigeria Workplace Mental Health Survey”, noted that:

  •  Four in five of employees in Nigeria are at an increased risk of developing mental health issues.
  • One in 12 employees are at risk of developing depression; four in 10 employees lack adequate emotional and social support; one in three at risk of inability to cope with stress; and one in three employees at risk from workplace stress.
  • More than half of all the employees reported not getting enough sleep to function properly at work, with women slightly more than men in not getting enough sleep.
  • More than a fifth of the employees are at an increased risk of suffering from financial worries as they had borrowed twice or more over six months before taking the survey.
  • Only one per cent of all employees reported using recreational drugs, such as cannabis and ecstasy.

And as each day goes by, more and more employees are at risk. Employers can reduce the risk and promote mental health in the workspace by adopting the following:

Managers and top officials should adopt a mental health awareness culture

To make mental health a priority in the workplace, the people at the top need to lead by example. Employees subconsciously model their behaviours, actions, and attitudes after the managers’. So if the company claims to care about the mental health of the workers and the manager’s attitude says otherwise, the workers will not see mental health as a serious issue. Adopting the culture also means the employers should embody such culture as well-taking their own mental health seriously.

An example of an organization that takes its mental health culture seriously is Ecobank, which recently had its Ecobank Day which was themed “Walk Against Mental Health Disorder”.

Organizations should design their workspaces that foster mental health

Workers’ mental health isn’t only affected by mental stressors in the workplace. It is also affected by the physical environment in the individual works. Studies have shown that a mentally healthy workspace always has a hand in reducing stress and a balanced work-life balance. Unfortunately, lots of Nigerian workspaces cannot boast of conducive working spaces.

That should not be the case. When taking up space for the organization, founders and employers should aim at creating an office that makes the workers feel safe and comfortable. A conducive workspace increases productivity and positively impacts the teamwork levels and collaboration of workers.

Speaking openly about mental health and its issues

To reduce the stigma and misconceptions, we need to stop thinking of mental health as a taboo subject and start talking about it openly. This step is connected to the organization’s top officials’ attitude to mental health awareness. Employees should see them openly discussing the issues and taking proactive actions to address them. Seeing such actions reassures employees that the organization cares about their mental health which increases employee loyalty.

Language matters

One of the ways to promote mental health is to be mindful of the language used around the organization. Most of us come from backgrounds that encourage stigmatization. 

No employer can command the words employees use but when the workplace language promotes mental health, workers have to adhere. Use of certain words, labels like “crazy”, “depression” and “mad”, when used out of context, can seem to trivialize the challenges of mentally ill people. This is the same for being insensitive to the genuine mental health state of employees. Sometimes, simply listening and expressing empathy can do wonders for a workplace’s mental health.

Organizations should note that different people have different levels of sensitivity and active steps should be taken to include and show them that their mental health is prioritized.

Hiring/training managers who understand mental health issues

Managers are on the frontline of mental health in the workplace. To successfully create a workplace that promotes mental health awareness, organizations need to take time out to train managers to be sensitive to such matters. As a manager, you are not only responsible for the output of the team, but also for their mental well-being. A manager needs to always be on the lookout for high stress and burnout among workers. 

If a manager understands burnout and also knows when it happens, it lets them intervene on time before any damage is done.

Effect of good mental health on an employee
  1. Increase in productivity and quality of work
  2. Better work-life balance and interest in work
  3. Ability to concentrate on work without distractions
  4. Acceptance of feedback and adaptability to change
  5. Effective communication with team members.

Every organization’s aim should be to have a mentally safe working environment where every team member pays attention to mental health. Looking at the positive effects of mental health awareness in the workplace, the need for organizations to take care of their employees’ well being is more prevalent than before. Good mental health is desirable for a developing nation like ours that relies heavily on a healthy working population for growth and development. 

Thus, for any and every Nigerian, workplace wellness must be a top priority. Let us know what you think on our LinkedIn page. We’re also here to help your organization’s recruitment needs. Speak to us today

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