Mental health is valuable capital at workplaces

11.2.2020 11.36 | Published in English on 12.2.2020 at 8.58
Column

How can workplaces ensure that mental health resources are valued and colleagues are supported if they have encountered problems? How can workplaces nurture and strengthen their employees’ mental health?

While one of the main objectives of the Finnish Government is to raise the employment rate, more and more people are left out of working life because of a mental health disorder. In 2018 alone, more than 6,000 Finns covered by an earnings-related pension scheme retired on disability pension due to mental disorders 

About half of the Finns have jobs, and work is an important part of adults' lives. Therefore, workplaces play an important role in maintaining good mental health and recovering from mental disorders. 

The Government is launching two working life programmes that include the perspective on strengthening mental health. The Government’s working capacity programme also aims to facilitate the employment of those who have suffered from mental disorders. The development programme for work and wellbeing at work, on the other hand, aims to improve the Finnish work culture and prolong working careers. 

The National Mental Health Strategy was published today and the strategy, too, includes objectives and measures related to working life. The strategy states that mental health is capital of individuals, families, communities and society, and mental care should be taken care of and invested in. This also applies to working life, as the mental health of the population affects the productivity of working life and employment as a whole.

Workplaces must be able to act in a way that supports mental health every working day, not only when the capacity to work is already undermined. Good mental health is a key issue in future working life, where brain work, skills to manage one’s own work and the ability to learn new things are highlighted. 

Therefore, the mental health skills of workplaces must be strengthened. Employees’ workload or burnout must be identified and addressed in a timely manner. Managerial work and management play an important role here – presence and fair treatment are means of preventive mental health work in workplaces.

The mental health strategy outlines that working life should be further developed and made more family-friendly. Flexibility in work and working hours, remote work opportunities and positive attitudes, among other things, are tools for workplaces to improve the reconciliation of work and personal life.

Work communities can encounter conflicts that also burden people’s minds. If there is an open and confidential atmosphere at the workplace, people dare to bring up matters for discussion immediately and conflicts can be resolved with the support of the supervisor. When it comes to bullying and inappropriate treatment, there must be zero tolerance at the workplace. 

The most important thing is that mental health problems are treated in the workplace in the same way as other health problems, and the employee does not need to be afraid of stigmatisation. 

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen
Minister of Social Affairs and Health