Mental health management through organizational change

Mental health management through organizational change

Reinforcing a caring organizational culture

During (or because of) organizational change, many workers find that their shift patterns change. This need creates a new dynamic for workers and the organization. In this article, we examine the effects of shiftwork on physical and mental health, and how an organization can manage mental health better through organizational change.

The similarity between shiftwork and organizational change

When we consider physical and mental health, there are some striking similarities between shift work and periods of organizational change. 

A study published by the Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Learning Network found that shift workers are 28% more likely to struggle with mental health issues. These include:

  • Depression 

  • Irritability

  • Social isolation

  • Anxiety

  • Lack of focus

Research has shown that during organizational change, employee stress levels rise and lead to diminishing focus, bouts of depression, and mood swings.

Performance and productivity may suffer, as sleep depravation takes its toll. Reaction times are lengthened.

Physical health problems that may occur include hypertension, heart conditions, ulcers and obesity. Rotating shiftwork has been linked to cardiovascular disease and lung cancer and associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Managers should be coached to manage mental health in the workplace

Many of the physical health issues associated with shiftwork and organizational change are linked to mental health. Both trigger workplace stress.

During organizational change, managers face challenges such as allocating resources, managing overlap of operations, and ensuring employees understand processes and procedures. They also need to ensure that staff maintain focus and remain resilient. Managers should therefore be coached in strategies to manage mental health in the workplace – focusing on managing and remediating stress.

What causes stress during change and shift work?

Good managers recognise the triggers of stress in the workplace. Primary triggers include excessive workload, long hours, sleep deprivation, an increase in management demands, and confusion.

Often, employees find themselves taking on extra responsibility and an increase in tasks. This increases stress, which manifests itself in deterioration of mental health and can lead to physical health symptoms. 

How can managers manage mental health more effectively?

Once mental health issues have been recognized, managers might take actions to remediate such as reallocating work and reducing workloads. However, the biggest impact is made by developing a culture that creates a more positive workplace environment. To do this, organizations must enable their managers to:

Organizations who are serious about developing a culture in which mental health is a primary concern will also:

  • Enable self-referral to internal support

  • Provide a safe place for time out and access to support

  • Encourage their people to build their resilience through emotional intelligence training

In summary

Mental health issues and physical health effects caused by both shiftwork and organizational change can be damaging to individuals, teams and the organization. Combating the effects of mental health issues requires the organization to understand that they exist, and their leaders and managers to be trained in managing mental health in the workplace.

However, those organizations that are serious about mental health will develop a culture in which mental health is not stigmatized, but instead people are encouraged to be more self-aware in an environment in which mental health issues are openly and honestly discussed and treated empathetically.

Coaching managers to manage mental health effectively will help your organization to be change ready and prepare the workplace for effectiveness through constant change. To learn more, contact Forward Focus today.


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