Loopline Systems Software Feedback Mitarbeiter Gespräche

Mental Health and Feedback Culture



Ina Haug

Considering the overall figures on mental illnesses, one thing is crystal clear: companies need to take a closer look at the factors influencing mental health in the workplace. But which aspects in the work environment are relevant and what role do factors such as the feedback culture play?


The "Why"

Mental illness is on the rise, that's a fact (Suhr, 2019). Health insurance companies, psychologists and many more are aware of this development. And you, too, surely know at least one person in your circle who is struggling with mental problems - depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, burnout, ...

Mental illnesses have many causes, such as genetics, traumatizing experiences, socialization and environmental influences.

Most things are beyond one's control. They just happen to us and we have merely have to find a way to cope. But there is a place, which has a particularly high influence on people's mental health, that can be influenced - the workplace. Constant time pressure, hopping from one online meeting to the next, lack of breaks, and feeling like you have to be constantly available are just a few examples that I'm sure sound all too familiar.


The responsibility of the employer

These factors can be improved by the employer, which is why it's important for companies to take on their responsibility. First and foremost out of humanity, but certainly also out of economic efficiency.

The consequences of mental illness in the workplace are often lack of motivation and corresponding decline in the performance of employees with long-term absences from work. These absences last on average 3 times longer than absences due to other illnesses and they continue to increase (Federal Ministry of Health, 2019).

Another point that calls for more responsibility on the employer side: Since 2013, there is a law that requires companies to conduct a so-called mental risk assessment (ArbSchG §5 and §6), i.e. to identify stress in the workplace and to derive and implement measures to improve mental health.


The "What"

Taking a closer look at those figures it seems the topic of mental health in the company is not necessarily a question of the "why". But one "why" remains: Why is the majority of companies yet to understand the urgency of this topic?

Speaking from personal experience, this is due to two main reasons: there is, unfortunately, still plenty of stigma and prejudice surrounding mental illnesses, which is why many employers turn a blind eye. Second, mental health in the workplace is something quiet abstract, which oft leads to questions such as: "What aspects of the work environment have an impact on mental health and what should be changed to make employees feel better?"

Let's conclude for now: It's not about the "why," but the "what."


Influences in the workplace

There are many areas of the workplace that can be potentially stressful to employees' mental health. Official guidelines suggest to take a good look at the following aspects:

  • Content / Tasks
  • Workplace structure / Tools
  • Working hours
  • Relationships with Co-Workers
  • Work equipment
  • Working environment

Whether or not employees work on very monotonous vs. a variety of tasks can have an impact on how happy they are in their day-to-day business. Another important aspect is the individual employee's scope to take action and make decisions.

Depending on the job description, working hours and the issue of shifts also play an important role. Often underestimated: physical working conditions can have an impact on the psyche. A flickering light or constant noise can be quite stressful. All of these points are possible stress factors - and at the same time possible resources that, if used to your favour, can also promote mental health.

I would like to pay special attention to social interactions and relationships in the workplace. Support from the manager, team cohesion and a good culture of making mistakes can build a great buffer against accute stress. In other words, if the social environment is right, then employees can withstand quite a lot.


The role of feedback

Speaking of relationships in the workplace, the feedback culture also plays a major role. A lack of or deconstructive feedback will negatively impact the experience of stress at work and can result in feelings of helplessness and even depression.

A good feedback culture, on the other hand, can increase employees' self-efficacy. This means that employees have more confidence in themselves and are aware of their competencies. Especially constructive and regular feedback will have a positive effect to this end.

With feedback from managers often being particularly of interest, feedback from colleagues as well as having the opportunity to give feedback themselves can be equally, if not more, effective.

From a psychological perspective, it is therefore advisable to establish a positive feedback culture in the company and thus strengthen the mental health of employees. Feedback should be regular and constructive, with clear rules and the possibility for both: giving as well as asking for feedback.





Ina Haug

B. Sc. Psychology, M. Sc. Business Psychology

Co-Founde improveMID


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