Mental Health in the Workplace: Beyond the Basics

Issue # 
March 2, 2022

The emotional weight of recent years mixed with dynamic changes that have happened in the workplace have brought about mental health challenges for both employees and their employers looking to support employees' mental health in an ever changing and challenging living/working landscape.  

"I'm deeply concerned as a parent and as a doctor that the obstacles this generation of people face are uniquely hard to navigate, and the impact that's having on their mental health is devastating," said Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy recently in front of U.S. lawmakers.

While the convenience of working from home during the pandemic was seen as a godsend to some, the ongoing isolation, lack of work life balance and boundaries, more screen time and mental fog gave rise to mental health issues and the phenomenon “pandemic” brain and a new label for the dominant emotion felt around the world -- “languishing.” These circumstances provided new challenges for workers and employers alike, scrambling to rethink their mental health plans to embrace their employees struggling to adapt to this new way of work/life.  

As we continue to brave the changing landscape of work in the following months, it’s fair to expect that anxiety is bound to surface. The time for mental health care and support at work is NOW.  So, we’re here to explore solutions for prioritizing mental health in these rapidly shifting circumstances:

One big problem: The lack of boundaries between work and home activities, caused by the sharing of one environment. 

According to Forbes, 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to wind down after work. This is likely due to the association of the activities they traditionally perform at home (e.g, cooking, sleeping, watching TV) with their office environment. This is intensified in instances where the employee has limited space and must work from the same room they sleep in. The brain begins to link work activities with the bedroom, making it harder to transition out of work mode when it’s time. It becomes easier to bend these boundaries when there is no hard and steadfast time to leave and place to return to. 

The solution: Create a separate but mindful space for work. 

Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior, suggests having a dedicated chair and specific markers, such as a houseplant or candle, to help the brain quickly identify the activity you’re pursuing, and adjust accordingly. If there are multiple sensory cues to alert the brain that it’s time for work, opposing cues will help set a mental boundary when it’s time for bed. This doesn’t mean you need to completely overhaul your desk area but instead, simply avoid working in areas you’d traditionally use to relax, such as the bed or couch. Consider placing sensory cues in your office space to curate a mindful environment. You can view our Instagram Guide if you need a push in the right direction!

But what if I’m back in the office?

Regardless of if you’re working at home or in a corporate office, anxiety can still manifest when at work. According to Lyra Health, 25% of employee respondents admit to a mental health decline over the past year, with 48% of respondents reporting their mental health shrinking their capacity to work over that time period.

Another problem: The lack of accessible and enjoyable mental health resources available to employees. 

Even though we might be getting used to the “new normal”, workplace burnout is still on the rise. 44% of workers say they feel fatigued on the job, up by 10% from last year, according to a study by Robert Half. Even worse, new research from Boston University’s School of Public Health shows depression rates in America jumped from 8.5% in 2019 to 32.8%, more than tripling since 2020.  Without regular communication between managers, their team and colleagues, employees are more likely to experience burnout. Without adequate support from their management, employees are unable to tackle their mental health issues sufficiently. 

The solution: therapeutic music relief.

Showing your employees you care and that they’re appreciated goes a long way (new research by Workhuman found that people who felt appreciated at work in the last month are only half as likely to be looking for a new job. They’re also three times more likely to see a path to grow within the organization) -- and providing mental health support doesn’t have to be overly costly or difficult to implement. In a recent article, Alan Turry, managing director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University told TIME, “if people are having trouble, there’s usually a way that music can help. Music is a way to bypass our rational side and to get in touch with the emotional life we often keep hidden.” But delivering music as medicine is not a simple or easy task.  There are many elements of a musical composition to consider when targeting a therapeutic outcome for stress, emotional regulation, etc.  That’s why at Spiritune we’ve built our music-based therapeutic app alongside leading experts from Stanford and NYU, combining principles of music therapy and neuroscience to help people reliably destress, focus more, and better manage their emotions -- particularly while they’re navigating a busy and demanding work day. Providing employees with access to stress-reduction music customized to their emotional and activity goals throughout the day can be a big step in the right direction. Join the growing list of companies prioritizing employee mental health and wellness with Spiritune by shooting us an email to inquire about Spiritune for Work.  We believe in a future where the future of work involves the ease, accessibility and effectiveness of therapeutic music -- and some of our happy clients do too!  "Since Mixbook rolled out Spiritune to our team, I can finally stop fiddling with my playlists knowing that I have a personally-curated list of tracks to help power me through my workday and beyond. My team and I are better able to focus and reach our fullest potential." - Kim Colucci, People Director at Mixbook.

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