Herzlich willkommen! Wir haben erkannt, dass Sie ggf. eine andere Sprache benötigen.

Mental health at work

21/03/2024 2021/01

In today's challenging world of work, mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly important. Companies are recognising that the well-being of their employees is vital, not only for ethical reasons, but also for economic ones. Modern technology is constantly changing the demands placed on the world of work. As a result, employees are faced with new tasks at an ever-increasing pace and need to be available at all times. Increased personal responsibility and the growing complexity of professional demands mean that the boundaries between work and private life are becoming increasingly blurred. Experts refer to this trend as the 'dissolution of boundaries'.

Overall, these developments highlight the need both to promote mental health at work and to find ways of dealing constructively with the stresses and strains of the modern workplace, as it is particularly important to look after one's mental health during crises and difficult periods.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which people are able to cope with the challenges of life. This includes being able to make full use of one's abilities, cope with stress, be productive and contribute to one's community.

The invisible burden: sick days caused by poor mental health

Sick leave due to mental illness reached a new high last year. The number of sick days in Germany rose to 132 million. It is noticeable that women are more likely to suffer from mental stress. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, more women than men work in jobs that involve close contact with people. Secondly, women still tend to bear the main responsibility for household and family matters. This 'double burden' of work and family takes a lot of mental energy.

So how can employers and managers recognise crises and support affected employees?

  • Encourage open communication: Create a culture of openness where employees can speak freely about their mental health concerns without fear of stigma.
  • Training and workshops: Provide training on stress management, resilience and mental health to raise awareness and teach effective coping strategies. Training managers on how to treat their staff with respect can also help reduce the burden on mental health.
  • Flexible working: Offer flexible working options such as home working and flexible hours to give employees more control over their work situation.
  • Introduce support programmes: Introduce Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to facilitate access to professional advice and support on personal or professional matters.
  • Healthy working environment: Mental health is promoted through ergonomic workplace design, clear goals and recognition systems, and a positive working atmosphere. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to protect their employees from potential physical and mental hazards. It is not enough to carry out a one-off mental health risk assessment; the employer is obliged to monitor changing working conditions on an ongoing basis. An up-to-date mental health risk assessment is essential as it forms the basis for the necessary protective measures. The employer must carry out regular reviews and make adjustments where necessary.
  • Feedback and employee involvement: Provide regular feedback and involve employees in decision-making processes to create a positive and participative work culture.

Each of us spends a significant amount of time at work. The world of work therefore undoubtedly plays a crucial role in our mental health. In this context, personal characteristics and work patterns can also increase stress. We have put together some tips to help you take care of yourself and your own resources:

  • Plan breaks: Consciously take time for short breaks during the working day to recover and regenerate.
  • Set boundaries: Set clear boundaries between working hours and leisure time to avoid overworking. Switch off electronic devices after work if possible. Set clear priorities and learn to delegate tasks where possible. Overwork is often caused by too many tasks at the same time.
  • Trying to communicate: Talk to colleagues or managers if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Open communication can help find solutions.
  • Maintain healthy routines: Establish healthy routines, both at work and outside of work. Regular exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep are important for mental health at work. You can also integrate mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, for example short breathing exercises or meditation to reduce stress.
Switch off the head outside
Among the most common responses was a walk in nature.
Among the most common responses was a walk in nature.
I have had enough, I'm going on the swing.
The funniest answer, we think: swings.
The funniest answer, we think: swings.
It doesn't matter whether the weekly schedule is digital or analog.
To-do lists or weekly plans also help to find a structure and were therefore often mentioned.
To-do lists or weekly plans also help to find a structure and were therefore often mentioned.

Mental health in the home office

Did you know that Isaac Newton worked from home for two years around 1665? At that time, the plague was rampant and did not spare him. So he went into quarantine himself. Hard to imagine today. How would you feel without the internet or a smartphone for two years in the same place? Without today's distractions, he created the theory of gravity, among other things. The apple that put Newton on the track of gravity can still be a good helper for us today. As the saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away". But is one apple enough? It's not just the framework conditions that influence the success of working from home.

Relief through clear structures

Our brain is a real energy guzzler compared to many other organs in our body. At the same time, it tries to work efficiently, for example by acting in patterns. We can support this with routines and fixed times. If we don't have to worry every day about where in the room we're going to work, what we're going to do and when we're going to start, our brain can use its capacity to get the job done. This means we tire less quickly. Many people also swear by a morning routine that prepares them mentally for the day. Not only is this a good way to work from home, but it can also help us start the day full of energy.

Fixed times help our brains to switch between work and family or leisure mode. Since we don't have a routine route to work, we can help ourselves and our brains to flip the switch. Whether it's getting a separate room, changing from pyjamas or tracksuit bottoms to something more suitable for work, or perhaps just swapping our glasses for computer glasses. These are all little nudges to our brains that tell them we are now in a different mode. We need these little anchors in our daily lives because they make it easier for us to step out of work mode and mentally close the door.
We can also use a concrete plan, a to-do list with associated prioritisation, to prevent our brains from wandering off. We can minimise unnecessary distractions. This will increase our productivity and we may end up creating something as ingenious as Newton.

Clear your mind with active breaks

Naturally, we have introduced breaks into our office routine. Having a quick chat with a colleague also gives our minds a break. Unfortunately, the person who accompanies us to the coffee machine is no longer in the next room. Nevertheless, it is important and beneficial to our productivity to consciously take breaks after periods of concentration. There are different ways of doing this, such as 50/10, a long break at lunchtime or the Pomodoro method (25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break, 4 cycles followed by a 30-minute break). Everyone can try it, as there is no one best way.

In order to increase the effect of the break, it is advisable to organise the break actively. This could be a walk during an extended lunch break, or short stretches at your desk or in the living room. Working from home also means that we move a lot less. Yet exercise is one of the most important protective factors for our minds, not to mention our bodies. For many people, it also helps to start the day with exercise. It doesn't take much time if you make a conscious effort. For example, how about a sun salutation in the morning? With this 5-10 minute yoga flow, you can start the day with some beneficial movement and be completely with yourself. It also creates a psychological break between work and play.

It all comes down to communication

If we don't have a shared route to the next meeting or to the coffee machine, we don't have the opportunity to chat with our colleagues. In addition, we are regularly task and goal oriented in online meetings, which means there is no opportunity for informal interaction. On the one hand, this is exactly the glue we need to feel part of a team; on the other hand, the distant communication also weakens our relationships with our colleagues. What usually happens on the side in the office can be planned when working from home.

Have you heard of the virtual coffee break? There are fixed times in the calendar, 15 minutes each, no agenda or moderator, and participation is of course voluntary. The main aim is to create a space for people to talk about things other than work. Good social relationships with colleagues also influence our well-being when we are sitting at home.

But even in the context of online meetings, spaces can be created for topics that are not directly related to the task or topic of the meeting. Check-in" and "check-out" options give everyone, even the quiet and reserved colleagues, the opportunity to let the others know what mood or thoughts they have just entered the meeting with. This also increases the sense of belonging. We are allowed to say out loud what is on our minds at the moment, and in doing so relieve ourselves or take the pressure off in very tense phases, as each other can better assess how their colleague is feeling at the moment. Why he or she might be more or less distracted. All of this is information about our team colleagues that we would not otherwise have through direct experience in the office, and helps us to better assess our counterparts.

Conversations can also be combined with some exercise if they take place over the phone and during a walk. This option is particularly useful for bringing employees and managers together.

Why future employability depends on targeted resilience training

Targeted resilience training is an important foundation for ensuring the future work and performance of your team. Today's challenges, whether working from home or in a productive working environment, are not always easy for your employees to cope with. With this in mind, a healthy approach to yourself and your employees is a crucial component for the future. Resilience training helps to build mental resilience and develop better strategies for dealing with stress. This contributes not only to individual mental health, but also to collective mental health, which can have a long-term positive impact on work dynamics and efficiency.

If you need support, we are here for you. Together we will work to provide you with healthy, highly motivated and resilient employees.

About the Author
Valeska Szalla
Development Consultant
Since 2017 I have been writing my success story at ARTS, where I can always add a new chapter through the various projects I have been involved in.

Overview of our Services


We develop careers!


20 years of success!