We spend almost a third of our day at work. We may not admit it, but many of us carry our mental health issues with us when we go to work. And, it doesn’t go away when we leave work – it carries on. Mental health doesn’t just affect our work. It can impact our relationships and damage our overall health. It stops us from being at the top of our game and as a result – millions are lost in productivity each year.
It’s not simple either. To the outside world, we may seem confident with our beaming smiles. But behind the beaming smile, there are many who suffer from crippling anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. According to the 2016 National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), nearly 150 million Indians are in need of mental health care services at any given point of time, while only less than 30 million seek care. As with physical health, mental health also varies from time to time and immediate treatment is needed.
Why should you act on mental health at work?
- India recently passed The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 which provides persons with mental illness protection. Even the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) have asked health insurance providers to cover mental health problems as part of their policies with immediate effect. It’s now the right of employees to be granted access to mental health care and not doing so will only be bad for business.
- Numerous studies have shown that companies which are more accepting of mental health issues have happier and more productive employees. Not just that, there are significant cost savings when mental health initiatives are implemented at work.
- What are the negatives? The World Health Organization estimates that the world would lose 12 billion workdays to depression and anxiety disorders by 2030 if mental health uptake isn’t scaled up. Of course, the other drawbacks also include absenteeism, unhappy relationships with colleagues/bosses and not to forget – a drop in the retention rate of employees.
Challenges that you will face:
- The size of your firm can affect implementation
- Acceptance of mental health as a problem
- Stigmas associated with mental health discussions
- Managers treating this as a low priority issue
Our advice: Keep at it. The more you keep trying, the more you will see the fruits of your labour.
A four-step approach:
- Have a policy in place
- Build an emotional health support program
- Define objectives of the program
- Get leadership involved
Activities that employers can take up to tackle mental health issues
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment. With technology vying for our attention all the time, it is imperative for us to learn how to train the mind. While practising, employees get a chance to notice their thoughts and feelings as they experience them. Add it to your arsenal to control stress and improve workplace performance.
Yoga at the workplace
Those asanas can go a long way to improve your employees’ mental wellbeing. There are even claims being made to say that yoga is the key to psychological and emotional healing, as well as resolving issues with self-confidence, relationships and more.
Sharing stories is a way to challenge the stigma around mental health issues. Break the culture of silence by supporting people to tell their own stories.
Sleep and mental health are deeply connected. Organizations like the UK’s National Health Service and Comcast are offering employees incentives to sleep seven hours a night. Accenture has also partnered with a startup to help their employees monitor sleeping patterns.
There have been numerous studies suggesting the benefits of exercise in alleviating mental health issues. Bonding and positive energy at the workplace improves as colleagues exercise together at work. Fitness challenges, Zumba, Yoga and Circuit Training also make the workplace a more vibrant place! What’s more? A company-sponsored fitness program can lead to savings for employees too.
Leaders in the company (including managers) will not act until they are clear about the policies and laws governing mental health issues at work. Training them will help them better recognize the signs and symptoms of varying conditions and diseases.
EAP is a company-sponsored programme where external partners are on-boarded to alleviate and assist in eliminating workplace problems caused by personal problems. They typically provide supportive, diagnostic, referral and counselling treatment services.
Money can be a real stressor for employees. Counseling them on financial topics like saving and investments can help them move in the right direction and beat financial problems. It will also give them hope about their future.
Make mental health insurance mandatory
Mental health insurance should cover outpatient and inpatient treatment, telemedicine, medication, and counseling. These will be of huge help to your employees when they seek treatment for their mental illnesses.
Oh, and don’t forget The Fuller Life – the experts in employee health and engagement. We offer emotional wellness programs and counseling services to handle emotional health issues your workforce might face. These include (but are not limited to) on-site and telephone counselling, referral for psychological symptoms or mental health disorders (e.g. depression, stress, and anxiety), marital or family-related issues, career-related difficulties and much more.
Also, learn more about identifying mental health issues within your workforce by signing up for the Corporate Health Summit (CHS). It’s a platform for stakeholders of corporate India’s wellness to converge and chart a healthier future for our workforce. Register for CHS 2019, partake in the discussions and learn about the advances made in the field of employee mental health alleviation.
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