• Mental health is the most common reason that people take time off work

  • The workplace is also where a lot of interpersonal difficulties come to light, says therapist Roger Fife

  • If you are struggling at work, find a therapist here

There has been a growing interest recently about how mental health problems need to be more carefully considered when businesses reflect on how to more fully engage their employees, improve productivity at work and engender a workplace culture that is inclusive, supportive and nurturing. Recent research suggests that mental health problems are the biggest reason for absenteeism. In effect feeling mentally unwell is often the most common reason as to why someone doesn’t want to go into work!

As a psychotherapist, I often hear stories from clients about how they are struggling at work. Work can be a place where the tensions of interpersonal relations come to the fore, coupled with the demands at work of performance and productivity. Basically, people can struggle with how they interact with other people, and this can become even more difficult when the pressures of work give rise to high levels stress and anxiety. We all can have a bad day at work, but when the idea of going into work, or dealing with your manager or colleague makes you feel paralysed with anxiety or fear, then there is a problem.

For some people, the emotional difficulties at work affect their mental wellbeing and emotional and psychological difficulties ensue. We may all have noticed a colleague who becomes withdrawn, angry, or tearful, and who is struggling to manage. Do we just ignore the difficulties of this person and hope it goes away? Do we expect that at work normal human emotions and reactions are put on hold, or suppressed? I would suggest that this is not only unrealistic but delusional: work is part of our lives and if someone is unhappy, depressed, anxious, panicky, or traumatised, then they may feel this way at work too. And if this is the case then would it not be sensible for there to be some form of support available like counselling or psychotherapy?

The ability to work, engage with colleagues, and be productive at work, is something that we need to recognise doesn't just happen by chance. We need to provide support and structure to assist individuals when they are feeling angry, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed so that emotional and psychological issues can be worked with, processed, and hopefully managed in a way that is supportive, expressive and constructive?

In essence, just like physical illness, we need to encourage people to get help when they are experiencing difficulties, that left unattended could result in mental “unwellness” that undermines the ability to live, work, love and be happy.

Roger Fife is a verified welldoing.org therapist in Central London

Further reading

11 tips for highly sensitive people at work

Men's mental health at work: what's the real cost?

How CBT helped me overcome anxiety at work

7 self-care tips for increasing energy at work

Work-related mental health issues: how therapy can help

This article was originally published as part of welldoing.org's partnership with Health Unlocked