Mental health & wellness is a growing concern among the working masses in every industry, including the medical lab industry. The constant work pressure to deliver quality, be productive at work, grow skills and communicate better keeps employees worried. Factors like workload, long shifts, strict deadlines, and the need for precision are stressful. Therefore, focusing on the mental health of frontline workers is critical for their well-being and the organization’s overall success in the industry.
Why is it important to address Issues in Mental Health?
Alike physical disorders, cases related to mental health are also rising every year. According to the WHO, more than half the world’s population is working class. And 15% of working adults live with a mental disorder. 12 billion working days are lost to anxiety and depression amongst employees alone.
Furthermore, this and several other issues in mental health badly affect working professionals’ confidence and ability to work.
Depression and anxiety cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year predominantly from reduced productivity. Therefore, avoiding causes of stressors and implementing mental health & wellness prevents mental health disorders on a broad spectrum. Recognizing and addressing mental stressors is vital for their mental well-being and also for the following reasons:
- Performance and productivity
- Better collaboration and contribution
- Motivated working spirit
- A positive environment
- Employee Retention and
- Top talent hiring
Addressing the mental health issue is not just important at an individual level but also at the organizational level. Implementing mental wellness can keep the workforce in your organization productive and positive.
Understanding Mental Wellness in Lab Industry
The lab industry is high accuracy and result driven industry that expects quality, timely results, safety, innovations, research, and development from its working staff each day. Employees working for a lab are expected to work long shifts, dedicate their effort to numerous paperwork, communicate & collaborate with several departments & stakeholders, etc. With constant work pressure, it is also expected that they aid patients with quality, safety, and dedication.
Under such circumstances, mental wellness for medical laboratory workers is as important as physical safety in the medical sector like a lab practice. Let’s glance through the basics of what they are? How to recognize their signs and symptoms? And how to achieve a breakthrough out of it, for a positive running work environment.
Common Mental Health Challenges Faced by Lab Professionals
Firstly, Employees in the medical diagnostics industry often face unique challenges that affect their mental health. Heavy workloads, redundant tasks, endless paper management, monotonous efforts, prolonged working hours, strict deadlines, and TAT-based commitments are some of the common challenges. Additionally, other challenges include exposure to hazardous substances, limited resources, overwork due to a short staffed environment, and a lot of to-and-fro off-premise to on-premise work assignments.
These difficulties in their nature of work create isolation, less exposure to personalized breaks, lack of social interactions, and much more. Also, it leads to limitations to act on personal skills, growth and development, and being consistent under pressure. All these factors point toward worsening the mental health of frontline workers. And also increasing the risk of issues in mental health among lab professionals.
Now that an organization is aware of the ill effects that affect the mental wellness of laboratory staff, let’s understand how to recognize their existence amongst your employees.
Recognizing signs of stress, burnout, and anxiety
Secondly, as a successful lab business, it is essential for leaders or colleagues to have the ability to recognize the major signs and symptoms of stress, burnout, and anxiety in their team members.
These signs or symptoms may include –
- Change in behavior
- Increased absenteeism
- Change in the work pace
- Decreased productivity
- Withdrawal from social interactions or activities
- Difficulty in concentration
You can also recognize signs of mental stress, burnout, and anxiety through physical symptoms like –
- Insomnia or lack of sleep
- Chronic fatigue
If you identify these signs in your employees, it is advisable that you provide timely support and better assistance to help in the management of mental illness and recovery before it escalates.
Breaking the Stigma Around Mental Health in the Lab
Moreover, it is believed that there is a stigma in the lab industry about being traditional about mental health and wellness. Employees often feel hesitant to open up or call for help during their struggles at work. In the era where we are today, it is essential to break this stigma around mental health to implement a positive work culture and a well-versed work-life balance for your employees. This definitely encourages open dialogue, support, understanding, and better communication within your staff.
The aim should be to create an environment where everyone is comfortable discussing mental health challenges and normalizing a help-seeking behavior without fear of judgment or repercussions.
Challenges Of Working In A Lab Industry
Working in a medical industry like a diagnostic lab is not an easy job. It adds up to many stressors and challenges that might impact mental health management.
Major Stressors and Challenges
In a lab, the nature of daily work is full of stressors and mental health challenges like:
- Managing and processing a large volume of data.
- Quick decision-making for criticality with patient health.
- Dealing with complex and technical procedures.
- High expectations of accuracy at work.
- Following strict protocols and regulations.
- Managing heavy workloads with different turnaround times and deadlines.
The pressure to meet the growing market demands and patient expectations leads to chronic stress and negatively impacts the mental health of an individual’s life.
How These Challenges Impact the Mental Health of Frontline Workers
The cumulative effect of the challenges faced in the lab industry can lead to a wide range of mental health issues such as –
- Lack of confidence
“Unexpected failures lead to a lack of confidence in oneself which is a growing cause of depression.”
Being exposed to a stressful environment for a prolonged period of time without adequate support can result in decreasing job satisfaction, lack of motivation, and low self-esteem. Frequent burnout and work pressure result in emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced personal accomplishment. This further impacts overall mental well-being, affecting concentration level, ability to make decisions, performance, and quality of work.
“Untreated and improper management of mental illness issues can have a detrimental effect on both personal and professional aspects of an individual’s life.”
Strategies For Promoting Mental Wellness In the Lab Industry
To foster mental wellness in lab industry, organizations can exercise the following strategies.
Practical Tips & Strategies for Promoting mental wellness for Medical Laboratory Workers.
Encouraging breaks and time off
Breaks are important! Regular breaks between working hours and allocated time off for vacations or leisure activities can help with stress management in laboratory workers and their relaxation, thus preventing burnout.
Providing mental health resources and support
Offer employees personal or professional counseling, employee assistance programs, or workshops on stress or mental health management, and resilience. Ensure that they are aware of their mental wellness resources, ways to improve mental wellbeing, and how to get the best out of them.
Creating a positive work environment
Practice a positive work environment with employee-engaging activities, boosting communication amongst individuals. Recognize achievements with rewards, appreciate contributions, foster teamwork, promote a sense of belonging, and train them whenever necessary. This boosts their confidence, hence mental wellness for medical laboratory workers.
Encouraging open communication and feedback
Implement feedback and open communication activities every month to understand your employees. Allow them to speak or ask questions through feedback sessions and utilize suggestion boxes as opportunities for dialogue or improvement. Establish channels for open communication to discuss their daily challenges, bottlenecks, and even goals. In addition to these, offer them opportunities to tackle them or provide assistance.
Promoting Work-life Balance in the Lab Industry
Enable employees to be productive without over-stressing or overdoing their daily work. Offer flexibility, reliability, and ease at work. Further, Know how to promote work-life balance in the lab industry and prevent staff burnout.
Using Tools/ software that reduces workload
Give your staff tools that ease their work and make it simpler and more convenient to work with. For medical and diagnostics labs, Laboratory information management software (LIMS) can automate their repetitive work, help them monitor their performance, and be efficient consistently. Additionally, it helps to reduce their workload and minimize redundant efforts aiding stress management in laboratory workers. It optimizes lab processes reducing manual entry errors, efforts, and thus, workloads. Labs must ensure that their staff receives proper training and support in using tools effectively.
Understand that promoting mental wellness in Lab Industry is a continuous effort. You must regularly assess the effectiveness of the strategies implemented, seek feedback and adapt to better approaches. Also, prioritizing the benefits of mental wellness can create a healthier, more positive, and more productive work environment in the lab industry.
Examples of companies or organizations that promote mental wellness in the lab industry:
- Abbott Laboratories: Abbott Laboratories, is a global healthcare company known for its commitment to employee well-being. They offer various resources and programs to promote the management of mental illness, such as access to mental health counselors, stress management initiatives, and employee assistance programs. They also encourage work-life balance through flexible working hours and provide support for mental health in healthcare workers.
- Roche: Roche, is a leading pharmaceutical and diagnostics company that places a strong emphasis on mental health and the benefits of mental wellness. Moreover, they have implemented a comprehensive well-being program that includes mental health resources, stress or mental health management workshops, and mindfulness training. Roche also promotes open communication and has dedicated channels for employees to provide feedback and seek necessary assistance.
- Thermo Fisher Scientific: Thermo Fisher Scientific, a global biotechnology company, recognizes the importance of mental wellness in lab industry. They provide employees with access to mental health resources. This includes counseling services and online tools for stress management in laboratory workers and also offers wellness programs and fitness initiatives. Additionally, it encourages regular breaks and vacations to support work-life balance in the lab industry.
Positive outcomes and benefits of these initiatives
The positive outcome of implementing and benefits of mental wellness in a lab are –
- Improved productivity: Promoting mental wellness within your lab organization can find ways to improve mental wellbeing and thus efficiency at work, thus improving productivity. When employees feel supported and appreciated and their mental health needs are met, they are more likely to perform at their best, focus better and make few errors at work.
- Reduced absenteeism and turnover: When employees are encouraged to do their best or trained to improve, it indicates that they are valued at work. As a result, they are more likely to stay loyal to the company. And also continue with the company for a long and have better attendance records.
- Enhanced employee morale and satisfaction: Initiatives that boost mental health and wellness elevate employee morale and provide them with work satisfaction. It keeps them valued and engaged for the long term with higher motivation to give their best daily.
- Better teamwork and collaboration: Open communication and feedback and the ease to seek help & support can engage employees in better collaboration with internal and external teams. It promotes teamwork and helps them boost their performance, share ideas, develop skills, and collaborate easily on projects.
- Attraction and retention of top talent: Companies that prioritize mental wellness are more likely to attract and retain top talent in the industry. In the current employment market, individuals are highly interested in companies that value employee well-being and follow a positive & friendly work culture. Hence, by encouraging mental health in healthcare workers, organizations can create a better employer brand, and attract and retain high-quality professionals.
Mental wellness at a workplace is as vital as physical wellness as it ensures better performance, growth, and success among individuals. This is why, for a growing organization, promoting mental well-being through work culture, work-life balance, and mental-wellbeing initiatives is a must today. Moreover, Organizations including labs should offer opportunities for open communication, feedback, development programs, destressing activities & programs, and tools to support the mental well-being of each individual.
Therefore, if there are signs of any staff or individual going through issues in mental health, it is the responsibility of the organization to offer timely assistance and suggest before it becomes harmful to the organization’s culture.