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Madrid 2,216 EUR -0,02 (-1,07 %)

HEALTH| 08.08.2023

Taking care of mental health in a crucial environment: the workplace


Rocio Aragonés Fernández

HR Director, MAPFRE Spain

Work is an important part of a person’s life and, thus, can have a significant impact on their mental health. Fortunately, more and more companies and organizations are recognizing the importance of mental health in the workplace and are working to avoid stigmatizing these disorders on the way to creating a healthier environment. Because mental health problems are not just something that happens to others. They can happen to us all.

There has been an evident overall increase in mental disorders as a result of the pandemic. In Spain, mental disorders now account for 12.5% of all health problems — a higher percentage than cancer and cardiovascular diseases — with depression as the most prevalent mental illness.

If companies want to continue building healthy environments, where people can develop their potential and their talent, we must also focus on the emotional well-being of workers. And, despite the clear society-wide diagnosis offered by the data on mental problems, at MAPFRE we do not want to focus solely on the disorder, but also on the daily worries and trials that we all go through, which, when not handled properly, can lead to bigger problems.

For the majority of the population, a large portion of their day-to-day is devoted to work. The working environment, conditions, workload, duties, level of stress, and relationship with colleagues and managers are some of the factors that condition a worker’s mental well-being, alongside other factors in their personal life. Striving to handle these issues properly reduces the likelihood of the most common symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, exhaustion, or sleep disorders.

Talking about the problem to normalize it

In order for mental health — an issue rife with many taboos — to become normalized and no longer stigmatized, the first step is to start talking about it. Understanding and verbalizing these issues makes it easier for sufferers to address and manage them. At MAPFRE, we are working to raise awareness of mental health issues in order to eliminate stigmatization and normalize the different moods and emotions we experience.

That is why, in addition to the much-needed employee counseling programs for those who are already emotionally overwhelmed and in need of professional help, we have launched ‘¡Poténciate!’, an ambitious mental health and well-being program that completes our healthy company model. We want to give our employees the tools to learn to recognize and manage their emotions when faced with the different situations that life throws at us.

Through different initiatives, such as talks given by experts, workshops, and contents, we address topics ranging from social relations and free time to the relationship between physical and mental well-being. In doing so, we want to support the employee in their personal sphere as well. Because each person is an undivided being: we do not carry our work life on one side and our personal life on the other. It is precisely these two aspects, together, that generate our integral well-being.

People and business: mental well-being benefits everyone

This comprehensive vision and action plan on mental health is a win-win approach for both individuals and organizations. We know that it can have multiple benefits for individuals, such as improving the working environment, perceived satisfaction, attention span and decision-making capacity, anxiety and stress management, among many others. It can also have benefits for the company, as improved care results in a boost in work performance, employee commitment, and company culture, and it fosters a more appealing and healthier working environment.

Although awareness of mental health has increased greatly in recent years, the stigma around anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses persists. Changing this mentality will take time, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Mainstreaming these issues into everyday life, including in the workplace, and looking at mental health from a global perspective, rather than in isolation, is a good place to start.

That one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime leaves little doubt: it could happen to any of us, and any one of us can have someone close who needs help. We know that the work environment, one of our main sources of social interaction, is a decisive factor for good (or bad) mental health. Creating an environment in which all people can give their best, while feeling safe and supported when they need help, is now one of the foremost objectives of those of us who work in people management.

Mental health is one of the great challenges of the 21st century, and it will require all our efforts across the board. Nevertheless, companies can play a crucial role in addressing it, learning to live with it, and finding solutions. At MAPFRE, we’ve taken up the challenge.