Good (Mental) Health Is Good Business: Mental Health in the Workplace

30 January 2020 / By Social Media

Positive psychological well-being can result from numerous sources in life including a satisfying job, a meaningful relationship. One’s work is one of the significant aspects of one’s life which relates to fulfilling his or her basic needs of living and reaching to the higher-order needs of meaningful sense of self and identity. A Wall Street Journal report from 2016 found that Indian millennials spend more time at work than their counterparts in 25 other countries- an average of 52 hours a week. Work can significantly impact one’s well-being at the workplace and in other areas of life. Mental wellbeing of the workforce is a growing concern for governments as well as businesses, globally. Unfortunately, poor mental health of employees is rapidly gaining momentum and is increasingly affecting organizations worldwide and in India. Previously, a 2015 ASSOCHAM study indicated that 42.5 percent of employees in the private sector suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder. This accounts for every second person in the workplace.

The dominant thought is that organisations are just “business-driven”. But in the contemporary times, we cannot escape from the fact that human resource is one of the valuable treasures of the organisations. Investing in, caring for and developing this human resource is something every organization should vouch on and may actually lead to desirable results as well. This is because poor mental health can pose functional limitations on the employee, which may have negative effects for the individual as well as for the organization. A professional’s capacity to focus, multi-task, handle pressure, interact with colleagues and clients, make judgment calls, deal with negative feedback and respond to change – all get impacted negatively, making the individual vulnerable. Without help, such employees struggle to cope, tend to under-perform, call in sick and are even likely to quit their jobs altogether. This shall have serious economic consequences. Therefore, The World Health Organization estimates that India will suffer economic losses amounting to a staggering 1.03 trillion dollars from mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030.

A number of individual and organizational variables can affect the mental well-being of an employee. Job insecurity, challenging projects, ambitious targets, tough deadlines, heavy performance pressures and appraisals can all lead to elevated stress levels. Bullying, discrimination and harassment, an overtly competitive or hostile company culture, office politics, long working hours and maintaining a work-life balance that are physically, emotionally and mentally draining lead not only to stress but also to trauma. Furthermore, the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illnesses in India prevent people from speaking out and seek help.

Young professionals have been found quoting that aid and understanding from employers about their mental health issues was rare. Either the supervisors do not know how to respond or are insensitive; or the companies, in the first place do not have well-articulated policies for employee’s mental health. Only 29 percent of Indian companies had a mental well-being action plan in 2018. Definitely, a more robust and active awareness and intervention is required at the workplaces.

Organisations should create a climate of awareness (mental health sessions, workshops and everyday bulletins to inform and educate) and communication (leaders can begin a conversation and create an environment where employees feel safe to speak up about their concerns).

Promote a “happier” work-culture, including suitable rest breaks, flexibility, time-off for physical and mental health, openness, inclusivity, accountability, strict policies against discrimination and harassment, information on self-care, recreation programs along with clean, safe and healthy work environment. Today, organisations are also coming up with stress-busting initiatives like teamwork and bonding programs, behavioural change and emotional intelligence programs, yoga, meditation and mindfulness sessions that help employees deal with the anxiety and stress, and foster camaraderie.

The system should also provide access to professional support, including psychologists, counselors and helplines. Employees and the employers must all learn how to recognise, red-flag and cope with signs of mental health concerns at an early stage. Sick leaves should be allowed for mental health concerns, along with mental and emotional health check-ups.


References:

Birla, N. (2019, September 10). Mental health may hurt India to tune of $1.03 trillion; here's a dose for cos. Retrieved from here.

Varadharaj, R. (n.d.). Tackle Workplace Mental Health With These 6 Smart Steps. Retrieved from here.

Mental Health and the Workplace: Time for Indian companies to take employees' well-being seriously. (2018, April 16). Retrieved from here.

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