Expert explores mental health in
workplace, provides pointers for golf industry workers

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Mental health in the workplace has become a growing concern since the coronavirus pandemic, with a record 59 percent of American workers experiencing issues associated with stress, anxiety, depression, psychoses, PTSD, substance abuse or bipolar disorders.

The golf industry in general, and PGA of America Golf Professionals in particular, are not immune to mental health problems. But Dr. Alex Alonso, Chief Knowledge Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) and an expert on mental health issues in the workplace, analyzed the problem and provided many practical solutions Thursday during a highly informative presentation titled “Work & Wellness – Understanding Ties Between Mental Health and the Workplace” in the PGA Member Business Center at the PGA Show.

“What does mental illness look like in the workplace? Before 2020, one out of 10 workers had some type of mental illness,” noted Dr. Alonso (pictured), “but after 2020 and the subsequent pandemic it became 5 out of 10 workers. And in reality, it is now 59 percent of all workers experiencing some form of mental illness. The golf industry boomed during the pandemic, but many workers are overwhelmed, so the question is: what can we do to manage mental health issues and stem the tide of workers leaving management positions because of mental health issues?”

Dr. Alonso mentioned that golf weathered the pandemic well, but now faces problems with overworked and overwhelmed employees just as other industries struggle with providing mental-health solutions to their employees. Part of the mental-health crisis in America can be traced to how managers treat – or mistreat – employees, according to Dr. Alonso.

“How many of you in this room have worked under a manager you didn’t like during your career,” Dr. Alonso asked at the “Work & Wellness” seminar on Thursday, which brought almost a unanimous show of hands. “There were over 17 million people managers in the U.S., but more than 10 percent have left the workplace since the pandemic. That represents a $17 trillion – yes, trillion with a “t” – loss of productivity. Managers and other workers are leaving their jobs because of companies’ inability to manage mental health problems.”

After noting that surveys have shown that only spouses impact workers’ mental health more than managers, Dr. Alonso outlined several methods that can be used by companies, managers and even golf facility owners/operators to combat the mental health crisis in the workplace.

First, he noted that innovation is rising, with Artificial Intelligence and  online services such as TalkSpace are available to offer private counseling based on the worker’s mental health issues. Dr. Alonso also encouraged managers and companies to schedule Personal Time Off (PTO) with pay for workers to help them avoid falling into a rut of feeling overwhelmed.

“Mental health issues can be mitigated by fostering a break culture and fostering job rotation at many workplaces,” said Dr. Alonso. “We shouldn’t foster coffee breaks, but provide breaks from the normal routine that can promote mental wellness rather than mental illness. If you can develop mental-health allies in the workplace, that goes a long way toward wellness in the workplace. By that I mean focus on developing better managers who care about the well-being of their employees. There are several surveys that indicate workers who love their jobs all had a great manager.”

Since many PGA Golf Professionals and others in the golf industry are their own managers and own bosses, Dr. Alonso recommended that everyone on the “Pyramid of Mental Health” be honest about their own mental health before trying to assess and assist the mental health of others in the workplace. Look in the mirror first and then don’t be reluctant to consult a professional to discuss issues and solutions.