It has never been more important to pay attention to workplace mental and emotional health. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 15% of working-age Indian adults have a mental disorder. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 47% of professionals had experienced workplace-related stress, which is the most significant factor affecting their mental health.
That is a significant number of people suffering in silence or not being aware of the reasons for their mental struggles or the tools that can be utilised to address their issues.
Addressing this has to be one of the priorities of an employer. As employers look to the future, a focus on supporting their employees' mental and emotional needs will be critical in developing a productive, more engaged and goal-oriented workforce. Whether a company is considered to have the best return-to-office strategy, has implemented a hybrid work model, or has decided to continue a fully remote workforce, there are other ways employers can help employees relieve stress, promote mental wellness, build resilience and empower them to be their best selves no matter where they work.
Reorganising the office
Employees need a workspace that is comfortable, customisable, and accommodating to their workstyles to thrive in an in-person office after nearly three years of remote work. Reimagined office spaces must be designed to promote mental health, and many employers are replicating home comforts by providing breakout areas with plenty of soft seating, and introducing more flexible and open work environments that foster collaboration and interaction between colleagues and teams.
Mental endurance and support
Many employees have realised the value of working for a company whose culture supports mental health.
According to a recent survey, 79% of respondents missed the social aspect of working in an office when Covid-related restrictions were in place, and 78% felt disconnected from their colleagues while working from home. With this in mind, it is critical to build a “community” and “support network” within the workplace. We should encourage our colleagues to share and express their feelings and emotional challenges and provide tools to better manage these needs. Without judgement, labels and stigma, the conversation around mental health needs to change. If it is speaking to a colleague or a manager, and if needed also providing access to therapists as part of the company’s health benefits, employees should know that “it is ok, not to be OK. But it is not ok, not to be OK, alone”
Leading by example
While many companies are quick to promote "work-life balance", in today’s world, there is more of a “work-life integration” and the right balance should be maintained, to allow for a certain level of flexibility for different employees while also ensuring that the business objectives are met.
Managers need to set an example for those who report to them, and do so proactively. Whether it's openly discussing mental health aspects and sharing difficulties, leaving the office at given times and taking paid holidays to recharge, this needs to start from the top. "Do as I say, not as I do" management is ineffective, and leaders who do not take care of their mental health can pass on their stress and anxiety to their employees and create a problematic work environment.
Overall, while the challenges that each company faces will differ, employers must begin rethinking how the workplace—whether in person, virtually, or in a hybrid format—can support employees' mental health and well-being needs. Mental health has never been more important, and the better-prepared businesses are to support the needs of their workforce, the more productive their employees will be during times of stress. This will also have an impact of the physical health of their employees. If there is one thing we have learnt in the last few years, it is that change is difficult, but managing it from an employee-centric perspective can help to create a better, healthier, more equitable, and engaged workforce.