Untying the knot of stressToo many expectations at work are leading to mental illnesses and lower output
Newspaper section: Mylife http://www.bangkokpost.com/advance-search/?papers_sec_id=12
Everybody wants to be successful at work. And when productivity, a success indicator, becomes our goal we cannot ignore our mental health in order to achieve those goals.
Many of us have to handle a lot of demanding and stressful tasks, be it a full in-tray, difficult clients, a moody boss, tight deadlines or unreasonable sales targets. So it's very possible that many of us have inevitably sunk into depression and anxiety.An enormous toll on businesses
Mental health is an international issue, affecting a large number of the working population. In the UK, work-related stress is estimated to be the biggest occupational health problem, after musculoskeletal disorders such as back problems. And 91 million working days a year are lost to mental ill-health.
In Japan, out of 2,207 work-related suicides in 2008, the most common reason (672 suicides) was overwork, according to the National Police Agency.
"In Thailand, mental health isn't such a big problem. But the rate keeps rising each year," said Amporn Benjaponpitak, MD, director of the Bureau of Technical Development, Department of Mental Health.
What causes distress among Thai workers
Dr Amporn said Thai society has rapidly developed into a materialistic one, and workers are now more competitive and are under more pressure to perform in order to buy consumer goods.
The advent of information technology is also seen as a major contributor towards mental illness among Thai workers.
She explained that in the digital era, most workers use communication tools to connect with one another.
"This can result in increased working hours, but decreased pleasure and leisure, thereby distracting workers' attention from a healthy lifestyle," she said.
According to Dr Amporn, anxiety, depression, bipolar and eating disorders as well as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder are the most common mental health problems.
These can cause unexplained absences and sick leave, work impairment, poor performance, withdrawal from social contact and frequent headaches and backache.
"However, moderately stressful conditions are good for employees. They can help drive them to achieve their goals," the doctor said.
"But when it crosses the line from a normal part of everyday existence into an emotional mindset that governs your life, that's unhealthy."Be aware of stress
We live in anxious times, so some stress is inevitable. When the anxiety festers, it can adversely impact our lives, both professional and personal.
It's lucky for someone to notice stress before it creeps up on them. Most of the time, the stresses and strains of everyday life are so sneaky we don't even notice that they're undermining us.
How can we know that we are prone to be stressful, which can lead to mental illnesses?
To bring stress under control, Dr Amporn gives workers certain criteria to recognise the early signs.
First of all watch out for stress, making you feel continuously burdened, sapping the joy out of once enjoyable activities. Or whether you become uneasy with social interaction. Or if you have trouble sleeping for a long period of time, or have a knot of anxiety in your stomach.
"If you've experienced some of these manifestations, you fit the bill. Consultation with a doctor or psychiatrist may be needed in order to make you feel more like yourself again," Dr Amporn said.
According to the doctor, good mental health is more than just the absence of disorders. It is also linked to how people maintain mental well-being. It involves how we feel about ourselves and about others and also how we are able to meet the demands of life.Happy on the go
Happy employees are efficient employees, Dr Amporn said. Making people happy in their work is a surefire way to help lessen worry and stress. It not only helps develop great self-respect, but also encourages people to perform well at work.
The doctor offered some self-care guidelines to enable workers to enjoy every day at work.
Develop work skills
A major reason people aren't happy at work is they are tasked with something they aren't good at. To get ready for new assignments, workers should acquire relevant skills.
Develop essential life skills
The improvement of behaviour traits such as problem-solving, social and communication skills, interpersonal relationships and attitude toward life is beneficial. Developing creative and positive thinking leads to a smoother and more joyful course through life.
Create a healthy working environment
A clean, tidy work station is conducive to working. A vase with colourful flowers can also brighten up your day in the office.
Do a relaxation routine
Allow time for activities and hobbies that satisfy your needs and interests, be it shopping, exercise or parties. Relaxation techniques like breathing control, music therapy and meditation can also help you unwind.
Setting clear goals for work is the cornerstone for both individual and business success. It can drive employees to achieve their ambitions and be more active at work.nmCREATING A HAPPY AND HEALTHY WORKPLACE
Two executives from leading Thai organisations share their experience to help their staff work with great pleasure.
Kanit Muangkrachang, vice-president of Thai Toshiba Electric Industries.
''The firm was established 41 years ago, and there are different generations of employees in the factory so the company attempts to bridge the gap between the older managers and younger workers. This can then increase our competitive edge in the market.
''We believe constant communication among employees helps resolve any conflict or controversy. It's key to the company's success.
''Communication is boundless at our workplace. We have a policy that requires managers to take good care of their subordinates. All employees can talk directly to their supervisors and executives about work and personal issues. Close relationships and pastoral care can make our staff happy and eventually increase productivity.
''In the face of competition from rivals in China, for instance, we needed to double the production of refrigerators from 85 to about 160 pieces per hour, with a workforce of 2,500. To do this, we talked to the staff in order to make them understand. Through a united effort and good teamwork, we now can manufacture about 200 refrigerators per hour.''
Patchara Thanattrai, vice-president, Human Resources Department, Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).
Patchara said the SET is a dynamic organisation, where leadership, teamwork and integrity are valued. To keep abreast of today's ever-changing information, the organisation needs to consistently improve and streamline its management plan. As a result, its employees need to be flexible and spontaneous. And of course, they must be happy.
''It's our aim to make our staff healthy both physically and emotionally when they are working. To complete this, managers are asked to set goals for each task so workers understand their roles in order to achieve the goals. Providing them with the necessary office equipment is also our duty.
''When our office was destroyed in an arson attack in May, for example, the staff were frustrated and lost heart. We sent emails and SMS messages to all employees in order to inform them of the changing situation. But, for me, verbal communication is superior. So we asked managers to talk to our staff on the phone in order to give them support. We believe that working in harmony can help us weather any storm.''
Writer: Sukhumaporn Laiyok