In the past months, alarming instances of mental health have proved to be a matter of concern. We can say that COVID situation fanned the otherwise taboo hidden under the carpet, but it cannot be said that the issues never existed.
People today are being bold and supportive enough to break the stigma attached to their mental well-being. One of the main reasons contributing to stress can be attributed to the workplace environment. According to WHO, depression and anxiety – the most common mental health issues globally costs around $1 trillion a year in terms of lost productivity.
Companies majorly do not acknowledge or address the gravity of the situation, thinking it to alienate from the functioning of the workplace. But stress, worry or anxiety can fetch success till a tangent, beyond which if left unattended, can affect the workspace along with the colleagues.
A study by Assocham conducted on 1,250 employees from 150 companies discovered that 42.5% of employees serving in the private sector had signs of disorder and depression. Where the incidence of anxiety and depression kept increasing by 40-50% during 2008-15, 38.5% among them observed to sleep for less than six hours.
The organizational intervention at such crucial points is instrumental not just in ethical terms, but also from an economic perspective. Workplaces taking substantial steps for employee welfare not only adds to the company life but contributes towards a healthy society as a whole. As per a study, out of 1.1 million companies actively registered across the country, a mere number of only 1,000 are estimated to have incorporated a structural employee assistance program (EAP) for mental health assistance.
Absence of awareness
The absence of awareness accompanied by the stigma attached to mental health makes it difficult in developing countries to take the issue seriously. Thus, it is not surprising that only a handful of Indian companies have incorporated structured EAP into their decorum.
Even if incorporated into the company’s guidelines, resistance is observed from an employee’s end. They think that seeking help for mental health would act as a hiatus in career growth. The anxiety of losing the job adds on to their already existing mental health issues. Hearing the words “Mental Health Policy” itself instils a sense of uneasiness. Most of the time, people are swayed by the mass, considering it as a regressive entity to be abstained by an individual.
Therefore, creating awareness amongst the office folks should top the list of mental health policy. The office should encourage implementation of mental health education where resources for employee’s reference are available, to help them break their shackles of society imposed taboo and recognize their state of mind while instilling a supportive environment for them.
Awareness acts as a catalyst in identifying the issue, paving the way for connecting to seek help, further echoing the openness of understanding by breaking the age-old prejudice towards mental health.
Bringing the change
Employers, managers and HRs being at an influential position can be instrumental in bringing the change. They should train for staff welfare where different methods are employed to tackle the way people act, think and feel. A good manager is flexible in decoding and managing the uniqueness of their employees, bringing the best out of them.
The working environment and pressure vary from person to person. Extroverts can thrive even in noisy conditions, leaving introverts at a receiving end. Some may be expert in creative brainstorming, but asking everyone to do so can stress them out.
Each employee shares different values and preferences, creating a diverse environment promotes maximum inclusion to open up possibilities for multiple scopes. Moreover, managers should continually check on the employees. The team may be capable, but the need for guidance and direction is inevitable.
The worst leader is the one who disappears on the team, leaving employees directionless, harming their morale which is a direct gateway to stress, anxiety and depression.
The policy should be accommodating varied aspects from financial and legal counselling, suicidal tendencies, personality problems, trauma, psychiatric problems, stress, and anxiety to acceptance of alternate sexual preferences or bullying, discrimination.
It doesn’t seem to be a matter of gravity, but a healthy work-life balance is crucial for the work ecosystem. Flexible working hours and options enhance the productivity of the employee to give them better control to manage things. It reduces the stress level phenomenally while preventing the chances of burnout.
According to research, about 33% of those involved in longer commutes are susceptible to depression. As a result, to meet their work commitments, they are forced to stay beyond office hours driving less self and family time. The insufficient time also intrudes the sleeping cycle to compensate for the lost time.
Hence, companies need to be agile in addressing these concerns. Healthy lifestyle practices should foster among the employees where the emphasis lies on proper nutrition, exercise, yoga and meditation.