Empathy, Purpose, and Influence: The Keys to Mental Well-being in the Workplace

In honour of World Mental Health Day, we spoke with Eva Jakobsen, a work-life consultant at IDA, about the prevalence of stress in the workplace and the importance of preventative measures.

Eva welcomes any opportunity to prioritize well-being, especially in today’s climate. Shockingly, one in five IDA members experiences stress, and the number of students affected has risen significantly. Last year, 41% of students reported stress symptoms, while half of the students (51%) did this year. Eva finds this concerning because early experiences with stress symptoms may follow them into their adult work lives.

Eva Jakobsen, work-life consultant at IDA

Eva points out that the rise in stress is influenced by several major trends rather than a single cause. Society’s acceleration, emphasizing performance, particularly affects students. Other global factors include the hybrid work model, where both frameworks and relationships need renegotiation, and the shortage of skilled workers, especially in STEM fields. Many IDA members have had to shoulder heavier workloads, leading to guilt when they can’t meet all expectations or lack time to properly onboard new colleagues. This situation ties into the significant global trend of ‘the great resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting’. In Denmark alone, there was a 20% increase in job changes in 2022 compared to three years earlier, according to ‘Kandidatanalysen’[1].

It’s rarely anyone’s fault when someone isn’t thriving, but it’s everyone’s responsibility – the employee, the manager, the workplace, and the union.

Unfortunately, this constant job rotation and the labour shortage, coupled with high expectations and increasing demands, lead to more people experiencing stress symptoms. Hence, there’s a growing need for collaboration between workplaces and unions to ensure a sustainable work environment. Eva emphasizes that there is no conflict of interest here; poor working conditions and stress are detrimental to business. Employers benefit significantly from focusing on preventative measures, as Eva asserts, “It’s rarely anyone’s fault when someone isn’t thriving, but it’s everyone’s responsibility – the employee, the manager, the workplace, and the union.”

Within IDA, efforts in stress management and well-being include individual counselling, leadership training, tools for workplaces, and political advocacy, both locally and at the EU level. Eva particularly highlights the positive outcomes of leadership training. It equips leaders with the language to discuss performance pressures and stress with employees, ensuring employees feel secure and heard. Leaders must engage in constructive dialogues with their teams. Eva often emphasizes the importance of leaders being both decisive and resilient. They shouldn’t hastily redistribute tasks but instead, take time to delve into problems with their employees and truly listen.

We Can’t Regulate Our Way to Better Well-being

While regulations on working hours and environments are essential, Eva doesn’t believe we can regulate our way out of the growing dissatisfaction in the job market. Our studies show that well-being comes from empathy, purpose, and influence. We need to feel heard and acknowledged, find meaning in our work, and have a say in our tasks.

Additionally, stress needs to be destigmatized further. Fortunately, Eva notes a positive trend where people are becoming more open about discussing stress in the workplace and recognizing their symptoms before reaching a breaking point. However, she emphasizes that there’s still a long way to go.

[1] Danskernes jobskifte anno 2022 – det siger Kandidatanalysen | ballisager