October 02, 2020
A smart strategy to build a strong business is to focus on employee wellbeing. Employee wellbeing is directly linked to employee engagement and productivity. Hence, focusing on your employees’ emotional and mental wellbeing makes your organisation stronger across the board. Mental health is one of the most critical factors in upholding employee wellbeing.
A study conducted in 2015 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that one in five Indians suffer from some sort of depression in their lifetime; this number equals to 200 million people.
Mental health problems not only affect a person’s personal and social relationship but also puts a strain on his/her work performance. The COVID pandemic has put additional stress on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the workforce. According to a recent report by the Economic Times, there has been a 35-40% increase in professionals seeking counselling to deal with mental stress due to isolation as a result of the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
It is here that companies should start playing a more proactive role in addressing this issue. They need to create a more conducive work environment for their employees that make them productive as well as content and happy.
Here are some tips that can help employers manage the emotional and mental wellbeing of their employees.
The work environment impacts an employee’s mood, drive for work, mental health and performance. If employees dread to go to work, they won’t have job satisfaction which in turn will harm their productivity. Hence creating a positive work environment is a critical factor to the success of any business.
Creating a transparent office culture means the company is open about its plans to its employees and the employees in turn also become honest with one another, and they become trustful of the company and its policies. When employees open up about their problems, it helps companies understand their employees and their problems better.
Companies need to be mindful of various emotional triggers while communicating with employees and try to be as supportive and transparent in their interactions. When talking about issues related to performance, highlight their strengths first and help them develop their own solutions in areas where then need improvement.
Companies can bring in mental health counselors to help their employees deal with stress-related issues. Many Indian companies like Tata Steel and Mahindra & Mahindra have started hiring mental health professionals to help their employees deal with stress. Another Indian firm, Lupin, has roped in mental health professionals to deal with isolation and other mental triggers that has become a challenge across industries.
With employees working remotely, companies can put technology to good use in providing different mental health programmes like meditation platforms, licensed counsellors on call and virtual sessions for employees to understand and adopt stress management techniques and related coping practice.
Apart from inviting mental health professionals, senior team members should play a guiding role and advice the younger and junior employees on how to cope with stress. Seniors can model their own behaviour and coping mechanism so that the junior folks observe and learn from them. They should listen to the younger team members, encourage them to ask questions or concerns, and preserve the boundaries they need.
To help those employees who find it difficult to manage stress, companies can help them by making adjustments in their working conditions. Providing them with flexible work schedules and balanced workload will give them the space and time to develop their own coping mechanism.
Companies should also reduce the stigma surrounding mental health so that employees are not viewed negatively because of a particular condition such as anxiety or depression. Make it clear that everyone struggles to cope with stress sometimes.
Businesses should make wellness a priority by encouraging their staff to exercise, form healthy eating habits and participate in leisure activities. All these factors play a positive role in the mental wellbeing of an individual.
Even when working from home during this pandemic, employees can experience virtual fatigue. Since offices are within their homes, it is not easy to create a boundary. Employees know that they can be summoned at any time to solve exigencies at work. Companies should encourage its staff to use their leaves even if they do not go anywhere. They can use this time to unplug and recharge within the confines of their homes with their family.
Personal time off reduces stress and fatigue, increases creativity and productivity, allows for cross-training among team members, creates an opportunity for the management to model employee behaviour and gives employees the ability to balance life and work.
Large companies like Hindustan Unilever, L’Oreal India, Nestle India, Godrej Group and others are giving employees “wellness day-offs” or encouraging them to take leaves to ensure that employees take a much-needed break from work.
When employees are healthy and emotionally happy, they are more productive and satisfied at work. Companies should offer the much-needed support to their employees to overcome their personal crisis. This is not only the ethical and moral thing to do but it is an excellent business investment when you have happy employees who look forward to each day at work with a positive attitude.