The uncertainty of life has led to a mental crisis in the workplace (2023)

yoIn October 2022, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released guidelines to promote employee mental health in the workplace. Murthy's team developed the framework in response to the alarming decline in employee well-being. For example,76% of workers in 2021reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase of 17% over the past two years. Excessive stress costs us nearly $200 billion in medical payments and more than 100,000 needless deaths each year. Today at work we feel too uncomfortable, too anxious and too overwhelmed.

Alongside this, we hear about the changing nature of work: the rise of automation and the persistence of change. Accelerating and increasing by the day, volatility, uncertainty and ambiguity threaten our well-being and productivity. There is no precedent for anyTempoor theuntilof the changes we are facing at work today, what we call the twin exams. However, few if any approaches acknowledge and shape this new reality as a significant contributor to declining well-being.

Keep reading: In some workplaces, it's now okay to not be okay

Successfully managing this pace and this type of uncertainty—not just surviving, but making the most of it to succeed—requires unique emotional, social, and cognitive skills. Understanding these two dimensions of the challenge can prepare us to respond.

(Video) Coping With Uncertainty

The whitewater world of work

About seven years ago, our colleague, futurist, and former Xerox Chief Scientist John Seely Brown started this phenomenon as "wild waterThe world of work: "For my parents," she says, "the typical career was like a steamboat: start the engine and go full throttle... But today's graduates have to be more like water kayakers bravas, analyzing fast and responding to an ever-changing stream." and know and trust themselves so they don't panic.

If we want to get our bearings again, we have to understand what we are up against. First of all: how fast are these rapids? How long do we have to be ready to row?

By most estimates, 2020 still represents the first chapter of our new world of work.Beginningthis transformation is movingtwo to four timesas fast as it was at the height of industrialization in 1900. And that pace is only accelerating. As of 2018estimated71% of all work tasks were performed by humans and 29% by machines. The World Economic ForumAccording to estimates, by 2025, this will change to 50% of the work done by humans and 50% by machines.

What about the individual experience of this change? In other words: "How fast is the change I am personally going to experience?"

Industrialization brought changes from generation to generation. The whitewater world of work is changing so fast we'll feel itinsideeach generation several times. Hard skills already expire every few years. The World Economic Forum, which follows the evolution of market demand for certain skills, believes that we must completely reinvent ourselvesevery 10 years.We will learn new professional skills only to see that they are no longer used or transferred to machines. We will always reinvent ourselves. And our children and grandchildren can expect the same.

If we recognize this reality and take it to heart, the project of creating well-being at work is not about surviving an era or a change. It's about being prepared for all the changes that are coming your way.

(Video) The Psychology of Career Decisions | Sharon Belden Castonguay | TEDxWesleyanU

The nature of the change is also different from what we have known up to now.

Not only is the pace of change dramatically faster today, but the change itself is of a different nature than we have known in the past. This complex exchange rate first aroused interest in military and political circles at the end of the 20th century. For example, the acronym VUCA, so often used today to describe our business environment, wasoriginally coinedby military leaders to describe the unpredictability of changes brought about by the end of the Cold War. Soldiers had to be prepared for:

  • Volatility: unexpected and unstable challenges of unknown duration
  • Uncertainty: unpredictable events with potential for surprises
  • Complexity: an overwhelming number of interconnected variables that affect events
  • Ambiguity: opacity of cause and effect control events

Many leadership training providers offer VUCA-based tools to help leaders succeed in our workplace.

About a decade before VUCA, planners developed the related concept of"Bad problems."Unlike simpler math problems or games like chess, complicated problems are difficult to solve due to incomplete or conflicting information or changing needs. By definition, unpleasant problems have multiple causes and lack a single "correct" answer. Terrorism, poverty and global warming are examples of evil problems.

The technology that delivers our daily dose of VUCA and nasty problems spans all industries and forums. It is found in our homes and in our offices, making it possible to share information and work faster. today is approx5 billionpeople on the internet That's 5 billion points of origin, 5 billion points of mutation. Each of us sits in the middle of these billions of waves every day, deciding which one to focus on, which one to ignore, and which one could signal a life-altering change we must precede.

Faced with this type of fleeting and unfeasible changes, we feel afraid. Nausea at best, fear at worst. Humiliation by the complexity we have created but can no longer control.

The psychological cost of whitewater

White water is not for the faint of heart.

(Video) Improve Your Mental Wellbeing During Financial Uncertainty

We all lose balance and get it back with new tools, new markets, new quarterly insights. Today we know much more about the negative consequences of these conditions for our health than we did in the past when the world of work was transformed.

Job instability, for example, and lack of control over the workplace, common by-products of VUCA, lead to mental disorders, poor health outcomes, and hundreds of thousands of them.premature deaths per year. Real unemployment has even worse consequences. If we lose jobs, oursTank for physical and emotional health:blood pressure, arthritis and heart attacks are increasing significantly, as are depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide.

Another big risk is automation.deepEffects on human loneliness. More of us will spend our days with "co-bots" instead of humans. homeworkleads to social isolation, and they have loneliness rates in the US.doubled since the 1980s.loneliness comes with ithigher rates of depression. it ismore harmfulthan obesity is for our health, and just as bad for us, in terms of mortality risk, assmoke a pack of cigarettesper day.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies were not convinced that the new world of work threatened our health. The pandemic has shattered that illusion. The dramatic increase in employee mental health needs as a result of COVID-19 created a crisis for workplace health leaders. Employees were sent to service centers overwhelmed and unprepared. Some companies tried to support those who had been laid off; Most companies have been too busy thinking about how to help workers still on the payroll.

Our employers, like all of us, are lost. We did not evolve to work on the whitewater VUCA, but here we are. We know that unless we act, many will suffer. We can continue to do exactly what we did with our psychological response to COVID-19: wait for the damage to be done and respond with relief.

Alternatively, we can use our unique advantage, namely: Modern scientific knowledge of how to thrive in uncertainty. What positive behavioral scientists have learned over the last 30 years about the psychological drivers of well-being and how to build them gives us hope today to weather the coming storm. Without this science we would remain vulnerable to mental suffering. With this science, we have the opportunity not only to avoid damage, but also to become stronger.

(Video) Bonus Video- Mental Health Simplified- Career Uncertainty

Adjusted extract fromTomorrowmind: Thrive at work with resilience, creativity, and connection, now and in an uncertain future by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin E.P. Seligman, published by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2023 by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin E.P. Seligman. All rights reserved.

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(Video) Dr. Saliha Afridi - The Emotional resilience in uncertain times


How does uncertainty affect mental health? ›

Some people can “roll with the punches,” adapting to changes quickly, while others struggle with the unknown and are likely to experience changes in mood, sleep/appetite patterns, and coping. Intolerance to uncertainty is also linked with stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks or disorder, and compulsions.

What factors can lead to mental health issues in the workplace? ›

Poor working environments – including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity – pose a risk to mental health. 15% of working-age adults were estimated to have a mental disorder in 2019.

What if you're having a mental health crisis at work? ›

Call for emergency help, such as 911, as soon as you can. Indicate the nature of the emergency, and describe the employee's behavior in detail. However, if they are not an immediate danger to you or others, start speaking to them with compassion.

What situations or events may impact on mental wellbeing in a workplace? ›

There are risk factors and protective factors that may contribute to the level of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. These include: Job design: demands of the job, control in the work environment, resources provided, the level of work engagement and potential exposure to trauma (such as emergency workers).

How do you deal with uncertainty at work? ›

5 Ways to Handle Uncertainty
  1. Let Go. The first step to dealing with uncertainty is to accept that we can't control everything. ...
  2. Envision the Best. We often try to spare ourselves disappointment by thinking through how things could go wrong. ...
  3. Reflect. ...
  4. Avoid Avoidance (And Keep Moving!) ...
  5. See the Possibility.

What are the 3 types of uncertainty? ›

We distinguish three basic forms of uncertainty—modal, empirical and normative—corresponding to the nature of the judgement that we can make about the prospects we face, or to the nature of the question we can ask about them.

What are 3 contributing factors that impact mental health? ›

For example, the following factors could potentially result in a period of poor mental health:
  • childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect.
  • social isolation or loneliness.
  • experiencing discrimination and stigma, including racism.
  • social disadvantage, poverty or debt.
  • bereavement (losing someone close to you)

What are the impacts on employees of workplace mental health issues? ›

The impact of mental illness in the workplace

The potential impact of mental illness in the workplace is substantial – loss of productivity due to absenteeism, turnover of staff and the impact on co workers, as well as the cost of government subsided medical care including medication and counselling.

What are some psychosocial factors that influence mental health in the workplace? ›

These psychosocial factors are: Psychological Support, Organizational Culture, Clear Leadership and Expectations, Civility and Respect, Psychological Competencies and Requirements, Growth and Development, Recognition and Reward, Involvement and Influence, Workload Management, Engagement, Balance, Psychological ...

How do I tell my boss I'm having a mental health crisis? ›

Talking about your mental health doesn't need to be scary or over-complicated, you can start the conversation by simply saying, “I need to get something off my chest” or “I need to talk, do you have time to listen?” Just remember to tell your boss only what is necessary.

How do you tell your boss you're quitting due to mental health? ›

It's starting to impact my health, and as such, I must tender my resignation. As you know, this is an extremely high-stress environment. Despite my very best efforts, I am not able to continue with this degree of elevated anxiety any longer. As such, I'm giving you my two weeks notice.

Can I quit my job due to stress? ›

If your job is causing you so much stress that it's starting to affect your health, then it may be time to consider quitting or perhaps even asking for fewer responsibilities. You may need to take a simple break from work if stress is impacting you from outside your job.

What are four 4 workplace factors that may impact on a person's wellbeing? ›

Job insecurity, lack of appropriate resources, lack of learning opportunity and a disproportionate pressure to perform are associated with poor workplace mental health.

Why is mental wellness in the workplace critical? ›

Positive mental health is important because it allows individuals to cope with challenges, even good ones, and setbacks in their lives, both at work and at home. Positive mental health at work helps teams remain agile when changing roles and responsibilities. Not to mention facing difficult challenges.

What are the six possible causes of stress at the workplace? ›

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

What is uncertainty in workplace challenges? ›

What is work uncertainty? Work uncertainty is defined as the occurrence of unplanned events interrupting the regular flow of work, prompting changes to a work schedule and making it difficult to predict the future of the work [1]. Work uncertainty can be internal and external.

What are the 3 ways to face a challenging uncertain situation? ›

The following tips can help you to:
  • Focus on controlling those things that are under your control.
  • Challenge your need for certainty.
  • Learn to better tolerate, even embrace, the inevitable uncertainty of life.
  • Reduce your anxiety and stress levels.
Nov 21, 2022

What are the three major factors that cause uncertainty for the organization? ›

Organizational theorists define uncertainty in three ways: (1) The inability to assign probabilities about the likelihood of future events occurring; (2) A lack of information about cause and effect relationships; (3) An inability to predict accurately decision outcomes.

What are examples of uncertainties in life? ›

Ten Things That Life's Uncertainties Have Taught Us
  • Rise to the occasion. ...
  • Adversities don't last for long. ...
  • Always forge ahead. ...
  • Never take the good times for granted. ...
  • Accept change positively. ...
  • Know who your real friends are. ...
  • You can't always predict the future. ...
  • Time heals everything.

What is the main source of uncertainty? ›

The sources of uncertainty are missing information, unreliable information, conflicting information, noisy information, and confusing information.

What is an example of state of uncertainty? ›

For example, if it is unknown whether or not it will rain tomorrow, then there is a state of uncertainty.

What are three examples of common workplace factors that may impact personal wellbeing? ›

Work-related problems can affect our physical, emotional and mental health. Common issues include job dissatisfaction, workplace injury, stress, discrimination and bullying, violence, accidental death and retirement. Job loss, retrenchment or unexpected loss of income can also cause distress and hardship.

How do life events affect mental health? ›

During significant events, stress hormones are released into your system. This in turn can lead to various mental and physiological symptoms. Your blood pressure might rise, resulting in headaches. You might experience cognitive difficulties during otherwise simple tasks.

What are the most common mental health issues in the workplace? ›

Common Workplace Mental Health Issues
  • Depression. Depression can stem from problems at home, stress, feeling incompetent or unimportant, and many other components. ...
  • Anxiety. Another major mental health issue commonly found in the workplace is anxiety. ...
  • Substance Use Disorder.

What workplace factors if any contribute to poor mental health or burnout? ›

Job burnout risk factors

You have a heavy workload and work long hours. You struggle with work-life balance. You work in a helping profession, such as health care. You feel you have little or no control over your work.

How might a negative mental attitude affect the workplace? ›

Some effects of negative attitudes behaviour on others include lower productivity, higher rates of absence, less team cohesion and low morale.

What are 5 causes of psychological injury in the workplace? ›

Workers' psychological and physical health can be adversely affected by exposure to a poorly designed or managed work environment, a traumatic event, workplace violence, fatigue, bullying or harassment and excessive or prolonged work pressures.

What are the psychological effects of stress in the workplace? ›

Effects on the organisation may include:

Poor performance and productivity. Low morale. Poor motivation. Increased employee complaints.

What are the risks of stress in the workplace? ›

Workers experience stress when the demands of their job are excessive and greater than their capacity to cope with them. In addition to mental health problems, workers suffering from prolonged stress can go on to develop serious physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease or musculoskeletal problems.

What should you not say in a mental health crisis? ›

Let's start with a few tips of what NOT to say to someone experiencing crisis!
  • Do not give unsolicited advice. ...
  • Do not invalidate their crisis by comparing it to one of your own, this is not about you. ...
  • Don't communicate your fears or negative feelings to the person in the center, remember: Comfort IN, Dump OUT.
Dec 10, 2019

How do you say professionally having a mental breakdown? ›

Scripts you can use with your boss

Lately, I've been experiencing stress and burnout and would like to request time off to manage my mental health.” “I've been struggling lately with personal stress. I know I've been distracted and unfocused at work as a result.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling mentally and need time off? ›

It's best to approach your employer on a day when things are quiet in the office, and to pick a place where you'll be able to speak calmly and in private. It's entirely up to you on how much to tell your employer, and if you prefer not to, you don't have to mention your condition by name.

Should I leave my job if it affects my mental health? ›

If your needs at work aren't being met – perhaps you're not receiving adequate feedback, or feel undervalued – then the obvious first step is to voice your concerns. However, if you've voiced your concerns and nothing has been done to rectify them, then moving on could be your best option.

When should you quit your job for mental health reasons? ›

When you find that your job is taking a severe toll on either your physical or mental health, it is time to go. You should never allow yourself to become another statistic whose health and wellbeing is destroyed by a job that creates undue stress and negativity.

Is it OK to quit a job because of burnout? ›

You're Burnt Out. Is burnout and stress on your list of good reasons to quit a job? If your job has lost its luster and you feel like the long hours, pressure and anxiety aren't worth it anymore; you're not alone. Every day, people quit their jobs due to the emotional exhaustion and chronic stress of demanding roles.

What to do when your job is destroying your mental health? ›

What to Do When Your Job Is Hurting Your Mental Health
  1. Know the ways that work can affect your mental health. ...
  2. Pinpoint exactly what is making your mental health worse. ...
  3. Change your perspective on your career. ...
  4. Consider consulting HR or your manager. ...
  5. Know the careers where mental health issues are common.
Apr 8, 2021

What are 3 signs that you are stressed about your work? ›

Managers should look out for signs of stress in teams and workers, listed below.
A change in the way someone thinks or feels can also be a sign of stress, for example:
  • mood swings.
  • being withdrawn.
  • loss of motivation, commitment and confidence.
  • increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive.
Nov 16, 2021

What is the best reason to quit a job? ›

Some good reasons for leaving a job include company downturn, acquisition, merger or restructuring as well as the desire for change — be it advancement, industry, environment, leadership or compensation. Family circumstances may also be a factor.

What factors lead to mental health at workplace? ›

Poor working environments – including discrimination and inequality, excessive workloads, low job control and job insecurity – pose a risk to mental health. 15% of working-age adults were estimated to have a mental disorder in 2019.

What affects employee mental health? ›

Workers may be affected by more than one factor at a time.
Excessive demands, low control
  • create clear job descriptions.
  • monitor workload.
  • support flexible work.
  • good work design.
Sep 5, 2022

What affects employees mental health? ›

Workplace issues that can also affect mental health include: stigma and discrimination. demand/control and effort/reward relationships. presenteeism.

How do you support mental wellbeing in the workplace? ›

With that in mind, here's 9 tips on how to improve mental health in the workplace.
  1. Look after yourself.
  2. Lead from the front.
  3. Pay attention and trust your instincts.
  4. Raise awareness around mental health.
  5. Keep the conversation going.
  6. Know where to go for further support.
  7. Prioritise work-life balance.

How do you improve mental wellness in the workplace? ›

While companies have a long way to go to prioritize employee well-being, here are ten ways you can improve your mental health at work.
  1. Begin your day with mindfulness. ...
  2. Focus on your strengths. ...
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. ...
  4. Start a gratitude culture. ...
  5. Talk it out. ...
  6. Accept rather than judge feelings. ...
  7. Get outdoors.
May 8, 2022

What are six signs of employee stress? ›

10 signs your employees might be suffering from stress
  • Working longer hours. Look out for employees who suddenly start staying in work later and later, or coming in earlier and earlier. ...
  • Increasingly irritable. ...
  • Visibly tired. ...
  • Shying away. ...
  • Working through breaks. ...
  • Time off. ...
  • Concentration and memory lapses. ...
  • Overly sensitive.

How does uncertainty affect a person? ›

Uncertainty and affect are fundamental and interrelated aspects of the human condition. Uncertainty is often associated with negative affect, but in some circumstances, it is associated with positive affect. In this article, we review different explanations for the varying relationship between uncertainty and affect.

What is the effect of uncertainty? ›

The uncertainty effect, also known as direct risk aversion, is a phenomenon from economics and psychology which suggests that individuals may be prone to expressing such an extreme distaste for risk that they ascribe a lower value to a risky prospect (e.g., a lottery for which outcomes and their corresponding ...

What does uncertainty do to a person? ›

Research shows that people react differently to uncertainty, and that those with a higher intolerance for uncertainty may be less resilient and more prone to low mood, negative or down feelings, and anxiety. No one can avoid the unexpected.

What does uncertainty do to people? ›

Fear and uncertainty can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless over the direction of your life. It can drain you emotionally and trap you in a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring. We're all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life.

Does uncertainty cause conflict? ›

Either way, ambiguity and uncertainty about an issue can not only negatively affect a conflict, it can actually be a cause of conflict.

Why is it important to deal with uncertainties in life? ›

Because if one thing is certain, certainty can be comfortable and demand little from us, but clinging to it limits our future, stifles potential , shrinks opportunity and precludes us from ever realizing just how much we're capable of doing. Uncertainty can ultimately enrich your life, or diminish it. Embrace it.

How do you live with the uncertainty of life? ›

Focusing on things you can control, as well as what's important to you, can help you to navigate uncertainty. Living in a way that matches what's important to you can offer a sense of stability. For example, if you're someone who loves to travel, the pandemic may have caused a lot of disappointment.

What are the three factors causing uncertainty? ›

Duncan (1972) describes three factors that contribute to this sense of uncertainty: (a) a lack of information about environmental factors that would influence a given decision-making situation; (b) a lack of knowledge about the effects of an incorrect decision; and (c) the inability of the decision-maker to assess the ...

Why does uncertainty cause stress? ›

The primary actions of uncertainty in creating stress and anxiety comprise: Falsely high anticipations of the impact and the odds of the threat occurring, because of one-sided assessments of the situation leading to scary predictions.

How does uncertainties in life influence our decision-making? ›

Because uncertainty is invisible, we often neglect to plan for it as we make decisions. And that can lead to regret later on. We think we're making rational decisions when, in reality, our emotions are driving us to make choices we wouldn't necessarily make if we knew the future was certain.

Why does uncertainty cause anxiety? ›

This ability is directly related to our level of certainty regarding future events – how likely they are, when they will occur, and what they will be like. Uncertainty diminishes how efficiently and effectively we can prepare for the future, and thus contributes to anxiety.

What are the two types of uncertainty a person faces? ›

Within the theory two types of uncertainty are identified; cognitive uncertainty and behavioral uncertainty. There are three types of strategies which people may use to seek information about someone: passive, active, and interactive.

What is the power of uncertainty? ›

Humans generally try to avoid the feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity. We are naturally inclined towards resolving ambiguous situations asap. When we are put in a position that we can't identify and define within a known set of parameters, our brain desperately tries to make sense of it.


1. Dealing with workplace stress and well being in times of uncertainty
(HKU SPACE Business Education)
2. Coping with Anxiety and Uncertainty at Work
(Harvard Business Review)
3. Mental Wellbeing and Human Development in Uncertain Times
(Human Development Report Office UNDP)
4. The Uncertainty of Life
(Peter Crone)
5. What a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Episode Looks Like
6. How to lead in a crisis | The Way We Work, a TED series


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