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How important is mental health at workplaces

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published : Dec 20, 2019, 3:18 pm IST
Updated : Dec 20, 2019, 3:18 pm IST

What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candour and more unashamed conversation.

Organisations are working to create a fine balance between maximum productivity and a stress-free work environment. (Photo: Representational/Pixels)
 Organisations are working to create a fine balance between maximum productivity and a stress-free work environment. (Photo: Representational/Pixels)

Mental well-being of the workforce is a growing concern for governments as well as businesses, globally. Mental health alone, as a cause, accounts for global loss of productivity worth INR 65.39 trillion (USD 1 trillion) annually. Poor mental health of employees is rapidly gaining momentum and is increasingly affecting organisations in India as well. There has been a rise in the number of reported cases of employees suffering from poor mental health, coming from organizations across all sectors due to depression, anxiety, hypertension and high workplace stress.

Despite global attention and initiatives to raise awareness, the common belief associated with the subject stands as a major challenge for organizations. For some people, it is the fear of being singled out, while others feel that the workplace environment is not appropriate to open-up. Clearly, a reorientation in the approach is needed to address the pressing issue.

Risk factors for mental well-being and its impact on the workplace

Deteriorating mental health of an employee can be due to work-related or non-work-related factors. Workplace burnouts, resulting from constant stress, can lead to serious mental ailments that can even manifest into serious complications. In India, about 67 per cent people admit that they are forced to think about work even when on leave, hence causing additional stress in their day-to-day lives.

Initiatives being taken to implement mental health programs globally

Renowned world leaders like New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Arden and HRH Prince William have spoken candidly about addressing the issue, and organisations including WHO have released guidelines for implementing mental health and safety standards in the workplace.

In an attempt to support employee wellbeing and reduce workplace-related stress and anxiety, countries including New Zealand and Japan are moving towards a 4-day workweek whereas Sweden is testing out a 6-hour working day.

Leading research firms are investing huge sums in mental health research, aimed at developing standards for early detection of depression and anxiety and devising better psychological therapies, counselling sessions for the patients.

Solutions to tackle mental health - trends in 2019

Organisations are working to create a fine balance between maximum productivity and a stress-free work environment. With the changing times, organisations have started appreciating the need to embrace workplace, creating fine balance to boost productivity and increase employee engagement. Both Millennials and Generation Z expect the organisations to invest in their health and well-being.

Institutions, Organisations and Government are partnering in the innovative solutions to support mental health and well-being. For instance, some Class 12 students have devised an app which allows users to connect to a virtual therapist for issues related to mental health; Institutions have therapy dog sessions for stressed-out students for emotional and mental support to the young students studying in International environment.

Other initiatives are

Dedicated mental health initiatives including workshops, trainings and formal policies related to mental health are radical reforms that must be incorporated.

High flexibility/adjustments in work practices such as providing flexibility of working according to personal life situations, work from home, setting realistic expectations and encouraging staff to take regular breaks.

Up scaling the office environment through well-lit and clean space helps employees’ function without distractions and stress. Open collaborative spaces can make working a pleasant experience. Apart from the design changes, a motivational culture dedicated to making employees feel respected, appreciated and rewarded timely can enhance their overall morale.

Building a healthy workplace through the participation of employee’s themselves towards metal health initiatives. As colleagues and team members, they spend most part of their day together. Therefore, their interpersonal understanding and support in challenging life situations can genuinely contribute to the mental wellness of the workplace.

Guiding affected colleagues to proper assistance and ensuring that the work environment is safe and pleasant for them can make a remarkable difference.

Why there’s a need for sustained focus on mental health in 2020

According to the World Health Organization, a healthy work environment helps people excel and contribute to the organisation. Over the past few years, while we have been able to create significant momentum and open up conversations around need to address mental health, we still have a long way to go.

Today organisations are opting between inviting experts and counsellors to engage with their employees, open forums and platforms for expressing their concerns anonymously and encouraging the presence of a Mental Health Champion who can be approached ensuring confidentiality. All these are effective interventions that help create a space that promotes conversations around mental health in the workplace, dispel myths, de-stigmatise and make it easier for people to seek support.

These small steps, in turn, will create a positive workplace and a place where people want to work. The individual contributions are most crucial towards building a healthy workplace and there is no development without health and no health without mental health.

Disclaimer: The article has been contributed by Swati Yadav, Vice President – Strategic HR, Hilleman Laboratories. The opinions expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and views appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Deccan Chronicle and Deccan Chronicle does not assume any responsibility and liability for the same.  

Tags: mental health, depression, anxiety, workplace
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