Workplace Mental Health: Creating a supportive environment for employee wellbeing

A recent report published by advisory firm Gallup reveals that a staggering 86% of Indian employees are either “struggling” or “suffering” in their present job roles. Another recent survey by Great Place to Work India pointed out that roughly one out of four Indian employees face difficulties in speaking up about burnout, stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues at their workplace. As per World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, globally $1 trillion is the economic cost of productivity loss annually due to mental health challenges of working professionals! 

Such statistics not only paint a grim, alarming picture regarding the current state of well-being of our workforce, but also highlight the pressing need for today’s organisations to prioritise their employees’ mental health.

To that end, here are a few practical ways how modern-day organisations can work towards building and sustaining a supportive work environment which is conducive to higher employee well-being: 

– In the workplace realm, building safe and open spaces is made possible easily by embracing a ‘top-down’ approach, wherein the senior leadership leads by example to shed stigma, setting the tone for mental health awareness and demonstrating the fact that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Leaders who truly care about mental health must become champions of the cause themselves; because when leaders talk openly about mental health, show empathy and trust, and normalize a “let’s converse” culture in the workplace, it automatically encourages employees to share/discuss their concerns freely with managers and colleagues without the fears of being judged or shamed.

–  In the post-pandemic world, flexible working arrangements such as remote or hybrid work have become the new norm, allowing employees greater control over their work-life balance. While this paradigm shift signals a great start, progressive organizations can move ahead further in the right direction by crafting policies that encourage workers to disconnect (be offline) after work hours and take regular breaks with paid leaves and vacations. Additionally, they should integrate psychometric assessment of employees into the existing hiring and onboarding processes to be able to offer emotional support and/or train them right from the start (or as and when required). 

– Other initiatives like offering health insurance benefits to employees including mental health coverage, introducing regular collaboration-oriented team-building activities, and rewards or incentive programs (can include innovative ones like gym memberships, meditation app subscriptions etc.) to appreciate and recognise employees’ contributions and make them feel valued can go a long way in creating positive workplaces.  

 – Last, but not least, a comprehensive Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that takes into account the 360-degree mental wellness needs of employees can prove to be a game-changer in terms of optimising the “employee well-being quotient”. These programmes should be introduced by organisations in partnership with reputable mental health service providers, and shall ideally encompass expert counselling and therapy, learning and development (L&D) modules, well-being workshops or webinars on relevant topics like stress management, emotional resilience, et al, and value-added services and resources for addressing concerns and empowering employees. 

Final Thoughts 

Prioritising and supporting employee mental health creates a win-win – it helps employees flourish and fosters a more productive, happier and successful organisation with lower absenteeism, higher employee retention, and improved performance. By taking concrete action steps as outlined above, employers can nurture a supportive work culture and unlock the fullest potential of their workforce, which in turn directly translates to business success.

(The author is the Co-Founder & CEO, Trijog)

 

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