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Why Dignity in the Workplace is Important for Mental Health

Why Dignity in the Workplace is Important for Mental Health

A healthy workplace is one with a culture of dignity and respect. To coincide with World Mental Health Day (10th October), Rachel Ward Lilley discusses the importance of dignity when it comes to mental health in the workplace. 

We all have our dignity; it’s a visceral human requirement that we feel instinctively. Andrew Sayer’s academic definition describes it as 'a social phenomenon and a mix of independence and interdependence whereby you have autonomy, self-discovery as well as trust and respect'. From this, I perceive dignity to be a feeling of self-worth combined with wanting to be valued, respected and treated ethically. Feeling valued, having a purpose and place in society is a key bastion of mental health and a powerful antidote to depression. Therefore, being happy at work because one feels valued has the double effect of boosting personal wellbeing and professional performance. Put simply, it is good for both employees and employers.

Having worked, over the years, with businesses and the education sector, I have found that one thing they have in common is the need to organise and motivate workers for the benefit of all involved. In this respect, there is growing recognition at management level that team leaders must take into account the essential importance of according dignity to all workers. It is evident that when they do it makes any organisation a great place to work and generates great results consequently. And remember that dignity is not necessarily about levels of pay. Although everyone wants – and deserves – a good standard of living, what they want above all else is to feel that they have a valued place in society.

Here’s a summary of the difference it can make. Team members in an organisation that treats them with dignity:

  • Love their work
  • Take pride in their work
  • Like to be involved in change
  • Can influence change
  • Are always learning
  • Respond positively to praise
  • Can be trusted
  • Feel good all the time


Team members in an organisation that ignores their dignity:

  • Hate their work
  • Are confused by their work
  • Get no satisfaction from their work
  • Feel uninvolved
  • Feel they have no voice
  • Stagnate
  • Work in a void
  • Want to leave
  • Feel low all the time


Also, during the time of Covid, with its intermittent lockdowns and constantly changing safety rules, people are experiencing extra levels of stress. Many businesses are in crisis and their employees are anxious about their prospects for continued employment, so it is especially relevant and important that employers approach the difficulties of sustaining their businesses with an ethical approach to their employees, treating them with the respect that helps them preserve their dignity and mental wellbeing when facing the upheaval that the pandemic is bringing with it.

Thanks to Rachel Ward Lilley for sharing this article.

Author: Rachel Ward Lilley is a business and educational psychologist. She has worked for many years advising SMEs and her current work relates to issues of resilience, communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past 12 years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.  Find out more here www.rachelwl.co.uk.

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