Unconventional Thoughts | Jan 2022

A toxic workplace can lead to a 300% increase in depression; how to know if you have one and steps to solve the problem

By: Amalie Zinsser | community director

Burnout Businesswoman Under Pressure In The Office

As we jump into the new year, we take inventory of what is working and what is not: relationships, physical movement, mental health and the elusive work-life balance. When we map these out, we tend to focus on our personal lives outside of the work when we should also be applying these — relationships, movement, mental health — to work itself. After taking inventory of these areas, evaluate what changes need to be made. Are there small changes that can improve your work life? Or, maybe it’s time to make a bigger change and find a place that works better for you.

study in Australia found that toxic workplaces increase the risk of depression by 300%. Let’s break down the key aspects we laid out above and identify what is toxic and how to break the cycle.

Relationships

We’ve all seen the cartoon of the boss versus the leader where the boss is yelling orders juxtaposed with the leader to helping to carry the load.

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We work harder, better and more enthusiastically for someone who lines up shoulder-to-shoulder with us than when working out of spite or fear. Most of us spend the majority of our time and energy on work. Leadership must acknowledge and support employees without demanding a lot of their time and also allowing enough time to complete assignments. Ways the workplace can build better relationships:

  • Open and honest communication
  • Appreciate employees: Acknowledge accomplishments right away
  • Show value and be empathetic: Learn the kind of praise each team member values – in front of the whole company, a private moment, involving their family, etc. – and deliver accordingly
  • Follow through on commitments: Showcase deadlines and follow-up if not met
  • Learn from your employees: Acknowledge that their views are important

Movement

Movement promotes active, alert and engaged employees. Having a calendar full of back-to-back meetings brings down morale as well as energy and creativity. Management can set an example by showcasing how important it is to take a break and move your body.

Ways to move:

  • Offer to pay for standing desks
  • Have employees block time to walk outside or take a work-out break
  • If able to meet in person, have walking one-on-ones or walk to a coffee shop

Mental Health

Outside of movement, we need mental breaks to gather our thoughts. Employees benefit from setting out time in the morning to see their day ahead and to settle from the morning they might have had, especially for those still working from home. I know I personally need a break after my toddler yells at me because she wants a different backpack, so you never know what colleagues and employees are having to juggle at home. It’s also useful to take a break between projects to reset and give your best work to the next task.

Ways to have a mental break at work:

  • Offering Headspace to employees for free
  • Setting mental time for beginning/mid/end of day
  • When on PTO, not reaching out to give that mental space
  • Making sure that employees take their earned PTO

Choose to implement some of these changes for yourself, for your team or suggest to your HR team. Little changes go a long way. And remember, perfection is the enemy of greatness. The balance will always be a bit off but we can all continually reevaluate in search of that harmony.