For the longest, our ideas of mental health have been sheltered in the confinement of activities like Yoga, Meditation, or an active Counselling Cell in place. We have failed to think beyond the stereotypical rationale of mental health being a ‘construct’ or a ‘condition’ to be cured. Integrated with the collective fallout that everyone faced in the wake of a pandemic, the need to instil a healthy discourse around mental health is now, more than ever.
Human capital is the asset of any organisation or a country. Employees today turn into leaders for tomorrow's change. Then, would it be fair for a company to let the 'workload' escalate into an eventual burnout?
The World Health organisation (WHO), in its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) included the term “Burnout” as an occupational phenomenon, addressing it as an inevitable repercussion of workplace stress. Just when international organisations like these started recognizing the need for a healthy, inclusive, and conscientious workspace, we were bestowed with the indefinite peril of Covid 19 pandemic. WHO later reported that the global pandemic had disrupted and even halted critical mental health services in up to 93% of countries across the globe at a time when its need was overwhelming.
After three years of witnessing the virus driving us up the wall, and embracing the ‘digital onboarding’ of sorts at workplaces, it's high time we revisit the underrepresented crusade that mental health has become.
Origins of workspace burnout
Many personal and environmental reasons may cause a slump in the steady thinking process resulting in an impending state of stress, anxiety and other mental ailments. In a 2016 research conducted by National Mental Health Survey, it was found that approximately 14% of the population in India requires mental health assistance. Looking at this data 6 years later, the numbers must have reached a staggering high. As per research reports, it was stated that 22.5% (nearly 2.6Billion people) of the global population is likely to be affected by depression by the year 2025.
Some of the most common issues faced by employees that tamper with their mental wellbeing include chaotic work culture, chain of command went astray, having to work on unfeasible deadlines, flimsy relationship with peers as well as authorities, autocratic hierarchical chain, and superficial expectations from superiors. Most of these concerns are often fueled by the lack of amicable dialogue between the leaders and subordinates, thus leading to frequent conflicts, bickering, and overall unhealthy work culture.
Impact of prolonged mental distress of employees on business
What remains a pressing concern is, a majority of people do not even realise they’re dealing with some sort of mental illness until it's much too late. This is due to stigmatised notions surmounting mental illness that thwart people from addressing its root. A good workplace should be a territory that is all-encompassing, and allows employees to loosen themselves, so they feel safe enough to communicate their needs. This will eliminate issues such as:
- Dissatisfactory Performance — Burnout is seen to have a direct effect on an employee’s functioning as the input required transgresses beyond the mental capacity, inflicting poor results and delayed decision making.
- Absenteeism — As per data, up to 40% of sick leaves are ascribed to cater to mental illnesses in the UK.
- Lack of Productivity — According to the American Psychiatric Association, there was a 35% reduction in productivity due to unresolved depression causing significant loss to the US economy.
- Augmented Margin of Error — People can only have limited bandwidths to allot to everyday work, which they sometimes exhaust while dealing with their own issues and stressors. As a result, work gets compromised leading to a gap in desired performance and actual performance.
- Eventual Fall-off in Operations — All these factors contribute directly or indirectly to haywire business operations and cause the organisation to suffer on differential fronts.
Plausible Recourse for An Inclusive Work Culture
In a flourishing workspace, managers are expected to be the gatekeepers of mental health. According to WHO, India is likely to undergo major economic losses of amounts as high as 1.03 trillion USD due to prevailing mental health adversities from 2012 to 2030.
In such times, managers and leaders should take in their purview to mandate an effective well-being policy. The true mark of an efficient, output-driven organisation is the well-being of its people, as they not only serve as the backbone of its success but are also fellow valued members of the community who should have their psychological needs met. Strategic measures for employee well-being initiated by the companies need to be implemented at the earliest to foster a smooth business pipeline. Alternatively, a room for safe, risk-free and non-judgmental communication should persist between co-workers. Employees must be given adequate breaks between tasks and meetings, no business interference on weekends and off days, and access to common-rooms in the organisation to stimulate their thought process while giving them room to let loose, distract, and refocus.
As per the 2022 budget, our Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the unveiling of a National Tele-mental Health Programme aimed at providing all-around care and counselling to people facing anguish. The public health sector will focus on strengthening basic, secondary, and tertiary health systems to respond effectively to future waves of infections. The health sector budget estimate for 2022-23 is Rs 86,200.65 crore, up 16.59% from the budget estimate for 2021-22.
Need For a sane workplace ecosystem
While the root cause of emotional turmoil may be many, an adequate support system empowered by businesses themselves as well as the government does bring in a sense of relief. As per a global perspective, a physically as well as mentally healthy population brings great success and productivity to a country’s economy as a whole. Harmonising the pillars of the tertiary sector will render a growth-centric and optimised performance, leading to better business outcomes.
Smooth and competent work culture is the byproduct of outstanding leadership where every employee is able to harness their potential without encountering mental barriers, or having the right kind of support system to overcome them. It is imperative that the business organisation’s actively partake in facilitating more strategic well-being policies and frameworks supporting employees’ needs to rein in a culture of inclusivity. When it comes to establishing a thriving workplace ecosystem, providing a righteous, and equitable environment is a place to begin.