Impossible deadlines, demanding bosses, abusive colleagues, unpaid overtime: all factors that can lead to a burnout. But when it comes to mental health in the workplace, the influence of home life must also be considered to get the full picture.
That's about to change thanks to new research from Concordia University and the University of Montreal, which proves that having an understanding partner is just as important as having a supportive boss.
The study, published in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, surveys 1,954 employees from 63 different organizations and shows that a multitude of issues contribute to mental health problems in the workforce.
The research team polled participants to measure factors like parental status, household income, social network, gender, age, physical health and levels of self-esteem. They studied these elements alongside stressors typically seen in the workplace, such as emotional exhaustion, poor use of skills, high psychological demands, job insecurity and lack of authority.
Turns out mental health in the workplace doesn't exist in a vacuum: it's deeply affected by the rest of a person's day-to-day life. And vice versa.
The study shows that fewer mental health problems are experienced by those living with a partner, in households with young children, higher household incomes, less work-family conflicts, and greater access to the support of a social network outside the workplace.
Of course, factors within the workplace are still important. Fewer mental health problems were reported when employees are supported at work, when expectations of job recognition are met, and when people feel secure in their jobs. A higher level of skill use is also associated with lower levels of depression, pointing to the importance of designing tasks that motivate and challenge workers.
“This is a call to action,” says senior author Steve Harvey, professor of management and dean of Concordia's John Molson School of Business. “Researchers need to expand their perspective, so that they get a full picture of the complexity of factors that determine individuals' mental health.”
For lead author Alain Marchand, professor at the University of Montreal's School of Industrial Relations, it's all about adopting a holistic view. “To maintain a truly healthy workforce, we need to look outside the office or home in simple terms to combat mental health issues in the workplace.”
Partners in research: This study was supported by the Canadian Health Research Institutes and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé. The study was also conducted in partnership with Standard Life Canada, which continuously helped to select companies and to promote their participation.
Notes: The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.
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