Article: Is mental health a taboo at your workplace? Mastertrust's Chief of Staff shares destigmatisation tips

Corporate Wellness Programs

Is mental health a taboo at your workplace? Mastertrust's Chief of Staff shares destigmatisation tips

Mastertrust's Chief of Staff suggested anonymous surveys as one of the ways to help those employees who are uncomfortable coming out and opening up about their issues, while discussing with us the destigmatisation of mental health at work.
Is mental health a taboo at your workplace? Mastertrust's Chief of Staff shares destigmatisation tips

In today's corporate landscape, tight deadlines and complex projects create immense pressure for employees to consistently deliver high-quality work within tight timeframes. Consequently, this relentless workload often leads to heightened levels of mental stress among employees. Some may visibly display signs of tension, while others exhibit increased irritability, withdrawing during team meetings, avoiding eye contact, and contributing less to discussions.

Despite the undeniable importance of mental health in the modern workplace, a pervasive stigma persists surrounding discussions on this topic. This stigma fosters an environment where conversations about mental health are silenced, avoided, or neglected, depriving employees of valuable opportunities to address their well-being and enhance productivity.

The taboo surrounding mental health discussions is deeply entrenched in many organisational cultures, driven by employees' fears of facing discrimination, judgment, or career setbacks if they disclose their mental health struggles. Consequently, many opt to suffer in silence rather than seek the support they desperately need, perpetuating a cycle of distress and underperformance.

However, the ramifications of ignoring mental health in the workplace are far-reaching. Research consistently demonstrates the detrimental impact of unaddressed mental health issues on employee morale, engagement, and overall organisational performance. Moreover, the financial costs to businesses, including absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover due to mental health-related issues, are staggering.

Recognising the urgency of this issue, Ms Suprita Bhattacharya, Chief of Staff at Master Capital Services Ltd, emphasises the imperative of destigmatising mental health discussions in the workplace. In her view, this is not only a moral obligation but also a strategic necessity for organisations committed to fostering healthy, inclusive, and high-performing work environments.

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, she shares insights on the importance of breaking down barriers to discussing mental health at work, further highlighting the potential benefits for organisations in promoting employee well-being, enhancing productivity, and cultivating a culture of compassion and support.

Excerpts from the interview: 

How should leaders within organisations promote and model open communication regarding mental health?

Mental health is an integral part of overall well-being and is essential for functioning well in daily life. Mental health and physical health are interconnected. Poor mental health can contribute to the development and exacerbation of physical health problems, and vice versa. 

Normalising conversations about mental health by openly sharing personal experiences is a powerful way to promote and exemplify open communication, ultimately reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Leading by example shows that it's okay to talk about problems and ask for help when needed. Leaders need to focus on creating a safe and supportive workplace, and they should also introduce programs that promote mental health awareness and wellness.

What are the best ways to educate employees and managers about mental health?

Firstly, training programs and effective webinars or seminars with experts on the subject matter can help a lot in addressing the issues related to mental health and overcoming the stigma attached to it. 

Secondly, the use of organisations’ internal communication channels to share relevant information about mental health, upcoming awareness events, and success stories also should be emphasised. 

Anonymous surveys are also beneficial in order to help those who are uncomfortable to come out and open up about their issues. These measures are not meant for a pilot drive but demand continuity to ensure effectiveness.

How can the HR department assess the impact of initiatives aimed at encouraging open communication about mental health?

Human Resources plays a crucial role in promoting mental health awareness and wellness programs within the workplace. It's essential to have regular sessions that encourage open and honest discussions. Managers and team leaders should receive training to recognise mental health issues so that we can collectively address these challenges. HR professionals themselves need training to identify warning signs and indicative parameters indicating that someone in the team may need help with mental health issues. This awareness and expertise come with experience.

Acknowledging and rewarding individuals or teams actively involved in promoting mental health awareness and open communication is important. HR can also establish focus groups to reach out to those who may be struggling to express or communicate the challenges they are facing. Overall, creating a supportive environment through these initiatives contributes to the well-being of everyone in the workplace. 

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What strategies does your organisation employ to address and reduce the stigma associated with mental health in the workplace?

We encourage everyone to openly discuss mental health and share personal stories to demonstrate vulnerability. I can quote myself here too that I have been very open about my postpartum challenges and how I was able to seek an expert’s help when the situation was stressful. 

My Directors were and still are very supportive when it comes to any support or guidance I or anyone for that matter need. To help those who need we also conduct sessions on mental awareness and wellbeing regularly. Apart from this we also try to foster a culture that values openness, empathy, and support for employees' well-being.

What challenges have you encountered in promoting open communication about mental health, and what lessons have been learned from addressing these challenges?

Overcoming the fear of judgment is tough, and privacy concerns, resistance to change, and lack of awareness make it even harder for mental well-being. It's crucial to treat our minds consistently, just like we care for our bodies. 

The key is awareness, encouraging open discussions in forums, and seeking expert advice. Since every mind is unique, challenges vary, emphasising the importance of recognising indicators before it's too late. To sum up, we must consistently prioritise mental well-being, promote awareness, and create spaces for open conversations and expert guidance.

How do you envision the future of mental health discussions in the workplace, and what steps is your organisation taking to further destigmatise these conversations?

Many organisations these days are trying to move towards a more holistic approach that integrates mental health into overall well-being initiatives. And we believe in the same. Nowadays, we have many tech platforms available in terms of health apps and customised health programs incorporated into companies' engagement plans as well. 

Apart from these, collaborating with mental health experts externally, conducting awareness drives, encouraging success stories within the organisation, open communication, and engaging in regular surveys and feedback to measure effectiveness are a few steps we are taking to destigmatise mental health talks.

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Topics: Corporate Wellness Programs, #MentalHealth, #PracticalTips, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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