People often view stress as a normal part of their daily lives especially when it comes to their jobs. Work-related stress may seem a natural part of life but for certain individuals with high stress jobs and vulnerabilities to psychological problems, their job could be linked with the development of a mental illness.
A number of different international studies found that mental health disorders including depression and anxiety disorders were a prominent cause for disability leave. People who took mental health sick leave from work were more likely to have high stress jobs and be working under certain conditions that could be psychologically tense.
While mental health sick leave is not always related to job stress, there were certain links between mental illness and high pressure jobs that could indicate there are problematic careers for people vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
Types of Job Stress and Sick Leave
According to research the main problems contributing to job stress are issues coping with poor managerial and workplace practices, excessive workloads, little control over work, demands to do more with less, and interpersonal conflict. These kinds of stressors, alone or combined with each other are associated with causing mental illness and can also worsen an existing disorder.
The pressure that jobs place on employees can result in reduced performance, incidental sick leave, or in more serious cases extended time off from work, workers compensation claims and permanent disability. Workers take an average of three days off per year due to work-related stress, but employees with depression might take as many as 3 or four days off per month. High stress jobs have proven to be damaging to employees especially when their workplace offers little social support and managers do not take measures to reduce the workload for stressed staff members.
Preventing Mental Illness in the Workplace
Mental health problems related to work not only affect the individual taking leave but also their employers who must pay the costs of mental stress claims and may struggle to get workers back to their jobs. In order to prevent the consequences of mental illness on everyone in the work place, employers must be more conscious of addressing job stress and the mental state of their employees.
Researchers are still looking for the best solutions that will ensure workplaces avoid worsening or causing symptoms of mental illness due to job-related stress. Some of the current efforts in this respect involve better equipping managers to manage people effectively in ways that will not affect their mental health.
Investing in managers with better interpersonal skills can help workplaces save money in the long run and prevent any mental health issues from coming up among employees. Middle managers can also be beneficial as a supportive staff member that can monitor people’s workloads and give employees more control over when and how they work.
Better performance management practices can also be a good way to provide motivation, connection, clarity and encouragement so that employees will not become overwhelmed or feel unappreciated for their work. Employers should provide performance management in a way that is sensitive and respectful to avoid worsening any mental health symptoms.
While there are a number of different changes that employers can make to reduce job stress and prevent symptoms of mental illness from becoming an issue in the workplace, employees should also be cautious about their stress levels. If a person who has an existing mental illness or is vulnerable to develop certain symptoms feels that stress levels are too high they should communicate this to their manager. Asking for more flexible hours, a reduced workload or other accommodations can help prevent symptoms of mental illness from worsening through job-related stress.