Mental health emerged as a major concern over the pandemic period. The forced isolation and loss of near ones threw a significant question at our faces which was “Are you spending enough time with your family and friends?”.
Though work-life balance has been discussed over a prolonged period, particular focus on mental health and wellness of employees was lacking. It was only during the pandemic that the correlation between wellness and productivity were realised.
To understand how leaders can contribute to the wellness of their employees along with setting examples through their own ways of confrontation, People Matters chatted with Shalini Naagar. She is the HR Director, India and Shared Services Kuala Lumpur at Baxter Healthcare.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
How has mental health priority transformed with the workplace transformation?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poor mental health costs the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. In India alone, the WHO projects that between 2012 and 2030, mental health disorders will cause an economic loss of almost $1.03 trillion.
According to recent surveys, 75% of employees are currently experiencing burnout. The forced isolation caused by the pandemic, the blurred lines between work and home, and the extra stress of managing health took a greater toll than anticipated, resulting in a significant increase in poor mental health disorders.
There is now a significant opportunity to rethink the workplace and the flexibility we provide to employees. Fostering a sense of community and engagement is crucial to employee well-being and should be a top priority for all organizations. Recognizing the relevance of human interactions and the implications of working in isolation, as well as identifying creative ways to assist others, is an evolving but crucial task for leaders. At Baxter Healthcare (India), we have offered a variety of resources for employees to combat burnout. Few practices, for example: BaxFlex, which enables employees to balance days in the office with days working from home so they may care for their parents and children. We offer customised tools and resources that encourage wellness and self-care to minimize burnout risks.
A significant idea was to roll out our ‘Dealing with Grief’ policy. Under this we organised to help employees manage their emotions after losing team members or loved ones during Covid.
How do you look at the mental health quotient of the leaders?
To begin with, recognising and taking responsibility for individual aspects of mental wellbeing in order to achieve their full potential. Second, having empathy for employees and providing support for them as they deal with the numerous mental health challenges that they face daily is key. To be a good leader, we need a strong leadership strategy based on humility, courage, and empathy.
Not only in letter, but also in spirit, leaders must adapt to the VUCA world. They must undergo a paradigm shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. This will ensure that they have a fresh perspective to inspire and motivate their employees while still achieving organizational objectives.
This equilibrium is essential for leaders to effectively lead their organisations at this juncture and ensure a sustainable future.
It is often said that improper communication contributes to an unhealthy mind of employees. Citing this, how is Baxter planning to invest in seamless communication in the future of work, which is anticipated to be automated and hence, completely remote?
Motivating and enabling employees through a range of communication channels, both traditional and new, has been shown to increase employee engagement. Here at Baxter Healthcare (India), during Covid, we employed engaging initiatives in remote settings, like holding virtual happy hours and coffee breaks, to help reduce burnout and foster stronger relationships among employees. Our leadership team has been effectively navigating mental health conversations and encouraging managers and colleagues to support flexible working models. Through internal surveys, targeted group conversations with leaders/HR, or therapist-assisted wellness sessions, we take feedback, and provide relevant support resources.
With the easing of the pandemic, hybrid models—in which employees work both remotely and, in the office —will become far more common, rather than completely remote.
In the future, we will continue to use a combination of effective on-the-ground communication tools such as internal publications, town halls, coffee chats, and so on, as well as more specific and immersive forms of communication, which will drive the relentless pursuit of cutting-edge technological advancements.
What is your personal way of dealing with burnout?
In recent years, I, like everyone else, have experienced burnout in both my personal and professional lives. Taking care of my family during the Covid phase and maintaining the morale of my own teams were among the issues that I was confronting.
Among my coping mechanisms are stress management through self-care practices. I prioritize physical activity or yoga, outdoor recreation, social interaction, meditation, and prayer.
Before I go to bed, I don't check my email or the news and instead read a book.
When required, I reach out to valued professional contacts in my network. They act as my sounding board for my thoughts and ideas.