Mental illness in the workplace can bring about a number of disadvantages, more so than just the concern knowing one or more of your employees isn’t happy. It cuts back on productiveness, as well as casting the rest of the office in a low light. It also has a negative effect on the overall atmosphere, and if left untreated, can lead to worker’s compensation claims. All of this can be avoided, however, by instigating just a few simple countermeasures. If your office is a forest, your employees are the trees. They huddle together in one place, share in the provisions (coffee, doughnuts, what have you), and contribute to one another’s wellbeing. Your employees spend entire days and weeks together, and therefore exist as a regular social circle for one another — just like the trees of a forest. And trees, just like any other plant, need to be primped and preened in ways you may not be aware. You have to trim them, cut off the dead leaves and bark, medicate them when they’re sick — all of this, the same as you have to take care of your employees, who report to you every day. Just like with the tree in your yard that is looking a little tired since you don’t take an active role in its health, such is the same for your office and its environment. The benefits of trimming your “trees” are such: Promoting Good Health Increasing Air Circulation Keeping Home & Property Safe Protecting Friends & Family Improving Home’s Appearance Promoting Fruit Growth How can these same benefits be applied to your employees and your overall workplace? Let’s explore how applying some of these benefits to your “forest” can not only help your business, but also the interpersonal lives of your staff. Promoting Good Health While mental illness might be considered a “bad” or “inconvenient” thing, it’s crucially important to avoid also placing those traits on the actual person suffering from the mental illness. They are victims of the “bad” and “inconvenient” illness, but they themselves are neither bad nor inconvenient. With this in mind we can determine that it’s the negative instigators we need to focus on removing, rather than the person suffering from an illness. If a depressed employee’s symptoms are supplemented by factors in their work environment, it’s important to point out those factors and remove them. With efforts to remove the things that exacerbate an employee’s symptoms, not only are they likely to be more productive and sociable on the work floor, but they are also less likely to become ill, have an accident, or take days off from work. As such, you’re less likely to have an injured employee on the job, which means you will be less likely to face a possible worker’s compensation claim in the future. What are some possible contributing factors to your offices’ low energy/irritation/pessimism? The causes can range anywhere from: Temperature Noise Lack of Sleep Seating Arrangements Distractions Poor Working Conditions/Equipment Disorganization And none of those go on to touch unfair salaries, favoritism, etc., but those are for another discussion. While each item listed here may seem small, consider the fact that an office environment is stressful as is, even without these added annoyances. To be consistently in a state of provocation brought on by a constant barrage of even the little things, of course it’s likely your workers will begin to show it. Increasing Air Circulation (Clearing the air, as it were.) With the removal of these negative elements, not only will you be increasing productivity on the floor, but also foster a positive environment between all employees and coworkers alike. This doesn’t only apply to making sure everyone gets along on an HR level, however. Ensuring your workers’ interpersonal relationships outside of the office can be just as important and beneficial as making sure everybody gets along after clocking into work in the mornings. Consider also the implementation of out-of-the-office activities, such as corporate picnics, outings, etc., in which you offer ways for your employees to get to know one another outside of the day to day office. This allows them to not only be more personable with one another, but also build lasting friendships that will contribute to the positive atmosphere you’re striving to build. You might also consider more opportunities for volunteer work, where your employees will experience a greater sense of achievement in themselves, while also doing their part to better the community. It Keeps Your Home & Property Safe (or, in this case, your business!) By increasing your employees’ opportunities to get to know one another better, you will also be offering a chance for them to get out of their chairs, away from the desk, and into some fresh air (this then would extend to their family members, as well, should your activities be planned for outside!) Regular exercise been proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, but getting your employees on their feet and moving more often will also contribute to fewer health issues in the future, which means fewer sick days, and fewer overall opportunities for loss in production. It Can Improve Your Home’s Appearance (Your home, or your business.) Not only will your happy employees be more productive on the floor and in their own personal tasks and goals, but a happier employee is a more engaged employee, and a more engaged employee leads to increased customer retention. On top of that, if a customer is aware of how well you take care of your employees, they will likely have more confidence that they will also be treated with respect, and continue doing business with you and your positive workforce. Conclusion Whether you’re aware of a particular employee, or employees, who may be suffering from a mental illness, or your office space just seems a little disengaged and apathetic, there are hundreds of ways to lighten up the overall mood. Like a tree left untended, an office and its employees are more likely to wilt under the pressures that come naturally with working in a closed environment, particularly when humans are designed to be social and active, and open to the fresh air. And so, like you would the oak tree in your front yard, grab some (metaphorical) clippers, and begin searching for those blockages in your office that might be closing employees off from reaching their full potential. The same blockages that hinder customer relations, and, most importantly of all, blockages that negatively affect your employees’ overall quality of life.