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How organizational culture impacts employee mental health: The good and the bad

Chandini Mokthar
September 15, 2023
How organizational culture impacts employee mental health: The good and the bad

Organizational culture has a profound effect on the ideas and actions of employees. Culture is the common or shared collection of principles, convictions, attitudes, and practices that impacts the daily lives of individuals within a company. A workplace with a positive culture will be healthier and more productive. In contrast, a negative organizational culture can exacerbate fatigue, stress, and various other mental health problems.  

Knowing the relationship between culture and mental health is essential for you to deliver the right type of experiences to your workforce – and avoid negatively impacting their well-being.

The Culture Challenge Ahead of Employers

Ever since the transition to remote work, employees have reported increased levels of anxiety, depression, difficulty connecting, or diminished well-being. Demanding work targets amid today’s economic climate also have an impact on mental health. In addition, many individuals struggle with work-life balance as their professional and personal lives converge.

Building a company culture that assists employees with stress management is no mean feat, but in its absence, your employees might struggle. And whenever your employees suffer, the business, as a whole, struggles as well. 

As a result of the stigma around mental health, employees are reluctant to take time off for stress unless their organizational culture actively supports it. However, this can negatively impact productivity, creativity, engagement, and problem-solving skills.

How a Poor Organizational Culture Hampers Wellbeing

If your culture does not prioritize the mental well-being of employees, it can lead to:

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  • A lack of psychological safety: A poor organizational culture can deter employees from requesting assistance and support. They may feel humiliated to confess that they have mental health issues.
  • Obstacles to work: An unfriendly, abrasive, or hostile culture can exacerbate anxiety, stress, and various other mental health concerns. Employees could even feel threatened or intimidated.
  • Greater burnout risk: A culture that promotes excessive workload and extended hours may contribute to the onset of fatigue. Employees may feel pushed to push themselves beyond their limits, resulting in exhaustion and a disparity between work and personal life.
  • Strain in balancing life’s many obligations: This is the result of a culture that refuses to allow flexibility. Employees could feel constrained and incapable of balancing their job and personal duties, resulting in feelings of being overburdened.

The Good: Building a Positive Culture is in Your Hands

Without a doubt, poor mental health among employees is undesirable -- its negative for you, for them, and for the business. The good news is that fostering a positive organizational culture can assist your employees in managing their mental health, coping with stress, and building resilience.

The following aspects of organizational culture can push the needle in the right direction:

  • Access to resources on mental health: Employee assistance programs, counseling services, as well as peer support groups are resources that aid employees in monitoring their psychological well-being and health.
  • A culture of support: You can cultivate a supportive atmosphere by encouraging candid discourse, empathy, and comprehension. Employees should feel at ease requesting assistance when they need it, without fear of discrimination or punishment, of any kind. 
  • Work-life balance: Your organization's culture can incorporate adaptability through policies such as remote work and flexible working hours. This can assist employees in managing their personal obligations and reducing anxieties.
  • Diversity: Respect and acceptance are directly linked to diversity and inclusion. It promotes mental health, particularly for underrepresented groups, by fostering a feeling of connection, belonging, and purpose.
  • Leadership: Managers can lead from the front by placing an emphasis on their own mental health, demonstrating ethical (and healthy) behavior, and nurturing an organizational culture that is beneficial.

How to Improve Your Culture for Happier, Healthier Employees

Fortunately, there are several actions you can start taking today. These include:

1. Keeping a check on the workload assigned

The mix of unrealistic or excessive duties with strict deadlines can result in exhaustion, nervousness, and increased anxiety. Employers should provide employees with manageable responsibilities. They must additionally educate managers on open communication so that employees feel secure speaking up when their tasks become overwhelming.

2. Offer flexi-working benefits to avoid a culture of presenteeism

Employers can provide perks such as remote work, flexible schedules, and the option to take rejuvenating breaks when necessary. Leaders can also set a positive example by taking such planned "halts" and absences when required instead of overworking themselves, or their employees. Mandatory breaks, like no meeting Wednesdays, should be embedded in your culture.

3. Revisit your policies that shape workplace relationships

A positive effect on mental health can be attributed to a strong rapport with team members. A negative relationship, however, can contribute to conflicts and a hostile work environment. Any sort of abuse or harassment must be promptly addressed and handled. Increased chances of teamwork, acknowledgment, and social interactions can facilitate the creation of positive relationships.

#ProTip: Encourage a Culture of Giving Back

There are scenarios with work pressure and long hours are avoidable, and a strong culture makes it easier to tackle these specific instances head-on. A great way to manage stress and promote well-being is by instilling a sense of purpose, which comes from a culture of giving back. That’s precisely what we do here at Moolya, where recognition and awards are directly linked to our culture! 

Follow our team on LinkedIn for more updates on culture and employee well-being.

Chandini Mokthar
Chandini Mokthar
VP, People & Culture
Chandini Mokhtar is the VP- People & Culture of Moolya and plays a pivotal role in defining Moolya’s overall culture and value. As a true People leader, she is highly focussed on elevating culture and helping organisations to navigate the cultural transformation. Chandini has been a talent acquisition specialist, talent specialist, and a talent acquisition consultant with extensive experience in the domain of defining people culture and ensuring a positive work environment. In a constantly changing environment, she creates an agile employee experience and keeps her team flexible enough to accommodate any changes.
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