Embracing mental wellness in the workplace
The last decade has seen the rise of megacorporations around the world – companies who have hit unprecedented economic heights, providing countless jobs to the global working population. However, amidst this incredible progress and productivity, one glaring issue appears to have taken a bit of a backseat – mental well-being.
In 2017, a study by the World Foundation for Mental Health estimated that roughly 10% of the global employed population had taken time off work for depression at one point or another. This statistic is less surprising when you learn that about 264 million people, the world over, suffer from depression, and may also have certain symptoms of anxiety. However, these conditions have a significant adverse impact, not just on the individual, but on the organization as well.
The cost of mental health problems
The WFMH report found that each depression episode suffered by an employee ended up costing the company an average of 36 work days. Furthermore, a WHO-led study in 2019 estimated that mental health problems in workers cost the global economy around US$1 trillion each year! With Covid-19 piling on this year, these issues have been exacerbated in those who suffer from them, further affecting overall productivity in the workplace.
That same WHO study from 2019 also found that for every US$1 invested in treatment for common mental disorders, there was a return of US$4 in terms of improved health and productivity. This should come as no surprise, as employees who feel valued and well cared for, are far more likely to be happy and productive. A happy and healthy workplace curbs absenteeism, and can help reduce the use of harmful substances like alcohol or nicotine by employees. Most significantly, it helps increase productivity, and the organization reaps the resulting economic benefits.
Suffice it to say, the corporate world needs to embrace better mental wellness solutions, before it’s too late. Thankfully, there are some useful solutions to be found.
Setting up mental wellness solutions
When it comes to identifying how to fix the problem, there is no one single right answer. Depending on the existing industry, corporate culture, structure, and even the size of the team at any given company, different approaches may be needed. But there are a few key aspects that pretty much every organization can start with:
- Policy: Mental wellness solutions need a top-down approach, and making it a central part of the company’s corporate wellness policy is a great place to start. This not only opens up avenues to explore new wellness initiatives and practices, but it also helps show employees that their mental health is seen as a key priority by the organization.
- Communication: On the face of it, this sounds obvious and easy enough to execute. But addressing mental health problems at a large scale calls for a certain amount of sensitivity and nuance. Everyone must be made aware of the availability of resources, and employees should be actively encouraged to take breaks if and when they need them. Most importantly, the language used should work towards destigmatizing mental health issues, and should avoid using terms that may be exclusionary, or act as triggers.
- Preventive care: Tackling the problem before it actually becomes a problem seems like a natural approach to take. For instance, organizations can offer their employees easy access to self-help solutions such as meditation and yoga. There are numerous digital wellness services available, similar to gym subscriptions, that make it easy to incorporate them into an existing employee wellness program.
- Counselling and Therapy: Ensuring easy access to safe, confidential therapy or counselling sessions, preferably conducted off-site, is yet another great step in the right direction. It can provide an additional source of great help and support to anyone in the organization who may need it.
For instance, around 34% of the group was using meditation as a way to improve their focus, with another 28% working towards a more relaxed mind. Both of these goals align perfectly with a professional environment – being more focused, and calmer at work can help boost overall productivity, so it’s encouraging to see people actively embracing those targets.
Meanwhile, at an organizational level, MNCs have been the quickest to start implementing these practices. The communication structures are already in place, making it easier for them to get things moving – however, we’ve also observed a rise in mental wellness programs in industries such as BFSI, consultancy, and tech startups. All in all, the signs are certainly encouraging that the corporate world as a whole recognizes the importance of having solid mental wellness initiatives in place.
In the near future, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if a company’s desirability correlates directly with its mental wellness program. People increasingly realize the value of having adequate support from their employer. And as time goes on, the companies who adopt these practices best and fastest, will be the ones who start pulling away from the rest of the pack.