Article: 'Unhealthy cost': Poor employee mental health costs India Inc around $14 billion yearly

Employee Relations

'Unhealthy cost': Poor employee mental health costs India Inc around $14 billion yearly

Around 80% of the Indian workforce has reported mental health issues over the past year, reveals a recent survey by Deloitte.
'Unhealthy cost': Poor employee mental health costs India Inc around $14 billion yearly

Over the years, mental health issues have seen a steady rise globally, accentuated further by the onset of Covid-19. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), India accounts for nearly 15% of the global mental health burden.

And, this affects the workforce too.

Poor mental health amongst employees costs Indian employers around Rs 1.1 lakh crore ($14 billion) per year due to absenteeism, presenteeism, and attrition, reveals a recent survey by Deloitte. This can be can be further broken down into three costs :

  • Cost of absenteeism : ~Rs 14,000 crore (~$1.9 billion)
  • Cost of presenteeism : ~Rs 51,000 crore (~$6.6 billion)
  • Cost of employee turnover:~Rs 45,000 crore (~Rs $5.9 billion)

Absenteeism refers to planned and unplanned leave taken due to mental health reasons while presenteeism is the phenomenon of attending to work while under mental stress and hence, performing at low productivity. 

The report notes that these costs build up over time and are incurred when poor mental health impacts how individuals deal with day-to-day stressors and are unable to thrive in their work environment.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP's (DTTILLP)  titled, “Mental health and well-being in the workplace”, compiled insights from 3,995 employees, to analyse the current state of mental well-being amongst Indian employees.

Around 47% professionals surveyed consider workplace-related stress as the biggest factor affecting their mental health, followed by financial and Covid-19 challenges.

These stressors manifest in multiple ways, affecting both the personal and professional facets of an individual’s life; often with associated social and economic costs.

According to the survey, 80% of the Indian workforce has reported mental health issues during the past year.

Top five industries by percentage of employees reporting an increase in mental health symptoms due to COVID-19 include IT and ITES (61%), consulting or business advisory (60%), banking and financial services (60%), technology, e-commerce and startups (57%) and education (51%).

Despite these alarming numbers, societal stigma prevents around 39% of the affected respondents from taking steps to manage their symptoms.

Additionally, the survey found that at the workplace, 33% of all respondents continued to work, despite poor mental health, while 29% took time off, while only 20% resigned to better manage their mental health.

Charu Sehgal, partner and life sciences and health care leader, DTTILLP, says mental health-related challenges are not new to the Indian workforce, but these have come to the forefront in light of Covid-19, and a younger workforce that is open to speaking about their individual well-being.

“Not only is the number of impacted employees large, but the degree of the challenge is also high, accentuated by performance-oriented cultures anchored in long and demanding work schedules, economic uncertainty, and peer comparison (especially on social media platforms). Employers have traditionally struggled to address this, as most employees feel uncomfortable speaking to their supervisors or talent teams due to the fear of retribution,” she added.

While most Indian corporates have recognised the importance of employee well-being, the share of mental health measures at the workplace is still limited, with a few sporadic events and the use of third-party employee assistance programmes, Sehgal feels.

“With the generational shift that we are witnessing in our workforce, employers have the opportunity to hit reset and fundamentally re-evaluate the ways of working to address root causes and drive greater inclusion and well-being through enabling talent policies. Raising awareness and destigmatising challenges pertaining to mental health can help employees access assistance early. As responsible corporate citizens, the onus is on India Inc. to act and establish a framework to manage psychological health and well-being in the workplace and create a culture of trust to ensure long-term benefits for employees as well as the organisation.”

Deloitte global CEO Punit Renjen added that it is essential that senior leaders play a major role in destigmatising mental health challenges within their organisations. “We need to take the necessary steps to create an environment where employees’ well-being is prioritised, and they have access to the support they need so that everyone can thrive.”

The WHO estimates that poor mental health costs the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity.In India alone, a 2019 estimate from WHO predicts that the economic loss due to mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030 will stand at around $1.03 trillion.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Employee Engagement, #Wellbeing, #Work Culture

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