Is corporate India in Mental health crisis.. What corporates can do to avoid it?
Why do corporates have to start the conversation about the mental state with their employees today?
Mental Health includes emotional, behavioral, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also helps/affects how we manage and deal with stress and make choices. Whenever an individual experiences stress their mood, thinking and behavior gets affected. Many factors affect mental health (Biological factors- genes or brain chemistry, life experiences- trauma, abuse, stress, and Family history).
Since we are talking about life experiences let's talk about any kind of trauma, lets address the COVID-19 situation here, which has been and continues to be very traumatic events in everyone's life adults, adolescents, and children. According to studies, there has been a steep rise in the cases of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts, burnout, and PTSD to name a few among employees. The COVID-19 Pandemic has clearly affected the globe by all means.
Usually, corporates had long working hours, deadlines, hectic schedules, and competitive nature of work but due to Covid, it has reached to the next level has created many psychological problems amongst their employees. Most corporates were doing EEP activities for their employees and also covering medical insurances but since COVID hit the globe they also have started hiring professionals (Psychologists) to cater to the need of their employees.
Also read: Mental health services and its benefits at Mpower
Though COVID has pushed all of us to have Worked from Home for the last one and a half years. Initially, it sounded and appeared appealing to our needs, with our needs being fulfilled, no Hassle to travel, working from our own comfort zone but after few months itself, reality struck and the comfort, flexibility, and idea of less supervision started to fade away also WFH too had its share of difficulties faced by many.
*Challenges of WHF:
1. Lack of Structure in work
2. Lack of connection with colleagues
3. Productivity decreases due to fatigue and burnout
4. Makes it challenging to meet deadlines
5. Fine line between flexibility and taking things for granted.
6. No appropriate working space and Distractions at home.
7. Uncertainty: People who had no issues with their mental health/ appeared healthy initially have reported having started feeling uneasy, stressed out due to uncertainty of situations and future.
Mental health Awareness has reached an inflection point and is one of those topics that virtually everyone is impacted by especially since the last few years and since the COVID pandemic, yet there are exceptions and few people want to talk about. For many individuals talking about mental health appears uncomfortable and scary topic that invokes fear and uncertainty.
There can be seen a positive change as employees have started to talk about mental health and are seeking support, also quite a few corporate houses have started acknowledging the crisis.
Since the awareness has increased, colleagues have started observing stress in each other, they have started approaching their HR for help, and also reported to have felt better with the much-needed support.
Well, some companies have started taking initiation towards the betterment of their employees for example:
● Employee Assistance Programm (EAP’s): that specializes in the mental wellbeing of employees assisting them in addressing with their not-so-good days.
● Access to mental health care: Appointing a mental health care professional who can cater to the requirements of employees.
Still, it's seen that employees find it difficult to open up their concerns with a therapist. Being in the field for so long it has been observed vice versa, in some cases comfort level can be seen as there are no biases and judgments made against them.
How corporates can make mental health conversation less challenging.
Realizing how difficult it is to change the perceptions related to mental health, Mpower Mind Matters was founded by Ms. Neerja Birla in 2016 and continues to work towards the change and destigmatizing the believes around, “how it is acceptable for our bodies to feel frail but not our minds”. Mpower minds have been working and have also launched campaigns like Suno Dekho Kaho, It’s ok not to be ok, and #stampoutstigma , where it is been strongly advocating about normalizing conversations around mental health as healthily as we talk about physical health.
Corporates can also initiate various in-house programs to support employees by :
1. Involving people whom employees might be looking up to or see as role models or are comfortable with. Again it is very important to take into consideration that before companies expect their employees to go to their appointed mental health professional, they need to create awareness about Mental Health, what it is, how an individual's mental health can get affected possible reasons, normalizing seeing a therapist. In which the managers or the seniors/supervisors can help to break the ice and making employees comfortable to talk about the big elephant in the room.
2. Be Vulnerable:
There has been a lot of research done on how one can connect with people around them in a more effective way especially when they have a feeling of “sailing in the same boat”. Well, it has been a personal experience if I don't feel I can have a connection with someone, there are fewer chances that I can ever open my heart to that individual on a personal level and many will agree to the same.
It has a major effect, also comforting when managers and people in senior positions help their team members in a way by sharing their own experiences and how they dealt with them. It also sparks a light of trust and a feeling of empathy in employees. Famous Biotech firm Roach Gerentech made videos available to their employees in which seniors are talking about their struggles with mental health and difficulties and how they are coping which resulted in huge success amongst their workers, they later named the campaign #letstalk.
3. Modeling healthy Behaviour:
We all know-how solutions and suggestions pour in when individuals talk about any concerns or are unable to handle a particularly unpleasant event. But when employees see their seniors not only talking but also implementing the same solutions and modeling it motivates them too to try their hand at displaying such healthy behaviors. For eg. Taking care of themselves, eating healthy, practicing meditation, Planing their work, having a structure in the work, etc.
4. Invest in Training and Resources:
As more and more employees are struggling with psychological issues, corporate houses need to train their seniors at the workplace to put their best foot forward to debunk common myths, stigmatization and also build resources by coming together may be having a support group at the office for employees suffering from mental health issues, buddy counseling and appointing a professional who can take care of it.
It might sound next to impossible to check up on every employee although organizations can have simple surveys run regularly to understand how their employees are doing.
*Modify certain company policies and practices:
Again it might be difficult to change company policies, but if given a thought it can work wonders for employees and employers. Giving importance to the quality of work instead of sticking to quantity and focusing on targets and review meetings, setting achievable goals considering pandemic, focussing on flexible work arrangements. This way organizations will also retain employees and their confidence in them and which might improve productivity too, it will also help in building employee trust.
*Introducing one-to-one counseling culture within the system. Providing with appropriate knowledge, talking about confidentiality, making these services available for employees as well as their family members.
Finally giving space to compassionate learning and building a Mentally Healthy workplace.