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Managing mental health at the office

Companies have developed wellness initiatives, in-house counselling and relationship support to their employees in order to boost productivity, decrease presenteeism and to keep staff generally happy. The approach of corporations towards mental health has definitely gone a long way considering it was not too long ago that discussing or remotely promoting wellbeing would have been somewhat unheard of. Yet, the mental health culture in the workplace arguably still has some leeway to go through. 

It’s easy to know the next steps forward if an employee comes in with a cast in their arm but not so much when someone comes in and says “I have severe depression.” Unsurprisingly, many researchers suggest that discussing your mental health issues can negatively affect your future prospects or position at work. This is troubling especially for employees as they try to professionally seek help but can’t as they battle who to talk to and better yet, what is the appropriate amount of information to disclose. 

Many take leaves of absence to focus on their health however many have experienced discrimination as employers are weary of the legitimacy of mental health conditions. In the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued employers for firing workers with related mental health issues or denying to provide leaves and appropriate accommodations. 

In one of the cases, a driver requested a service animal in his vehicle to control his anxiety from his boss however the trucking company denied the request and instead demanded him to pay the costs himself. The department sued the company and settled with the driver $22,500. 

So, should we disclose our mental health issues at work? Is it even worth it? Well, yes. In light of the global pandemic, talk of emotional health has steadily entered the office. While there may be still some stigma towards mental health conditions, companies have developed better infrastructure, staffers and support systems to help with the latter. From offering meditation, on-site therapy and resilience training – “employees would disappear on leave and no one would know why. Now they’re being real transparent about [their mental health conditions].” said Jenny Haykin, the head of a 3,100 person company wellbeing department. 

So, here’s how mental health experts recommend disclosing your diagnosis or troubles at work:  

 1. Figure out the appropriate time 

This is the multibillion dollar question since it can be hard to figure out when is the right time. Experts suggest that if your work performance is still of level, the managers may decrease your workload in hope to prevent your conditions worsening which can impede career growth. 

Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, spoke to the Wall Street Journal of the matter and said “You should only tell if you really need to tell. Don’t volunteer information they don’t need. Do ask for help you absolutely need.”  


2. Approach the HR or any key person responsible for this area 

The human resources department or company leave staffers can figure out and offer reasonable accommodations and negotiate flexible working schedules or unpaid leaves on your behalf, without getting your bosses involved or having them to know the reason. 


3. Try out the wellbeing programs offered by your company 

A lot of the wellbeing programs are free and confidential so you can take the time to rejuvenate in confidence and discuss your problems in a safe (and confidential) space since these services are typically offered by third party professionals and organisations. These resources are at your disposal and can normally help with anything between financial concerns, martial issues or tragic accidents.



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