Promoting Mental Wellness is important at the workplace

To improve this worsening state, several organizations have started conducting employee wellness programs but we need a lot more awareness in this area

Indian millennials, in every sense, are smart, knowledge-savvy and hardworking. They have decent incomes, big aspirations and everything that sounds like a perfect life anyone would wish for. But “are they happy or healthy?” is the biggest question that most employers overlook these days, especially in a corporate or private setting. With endless organizational tasks and shrinking deadlines, the young millennials that form 47% of the total workforce, are surely leading the modern workplace bandwagon, but with an invisible catch – mental ailments. If this situation continues, besides progressive personal health issues, India will certainly face significant economic losses, amounting to a whopping 1.03 trillion dollars by 2030, as estimated by WHO. 

It goes without saying why employee health and wellness should be the priority for an organization’s success and survival.

To improve this worsening state, several organizations have started conducting employee wellness programs but we need a lot more awareness in this area. Currently, India has around 11 lakh registered companies, however, only 1,000 of them consider mental health as part of their business agenda and thus follow a structured “Employees Assistance Program” while the rest see it as a fad. Clearly, there is still a lot of scope for such programs in the corporate world and employers should definitely take it seriously. 

So how can progressive organizations promote employee wellness in today’s modern era?

Since stress is a constant in today’s working scenario, it is crucial for organizations to train employees on stress management. To begin with, employers should encourage employees to initiate conversations about mental health problems rather than considering it as a stigma. Building a less judgemental office environment would work extremely well in this case and enabling professionals to openly share their problems while seeking and giving help to each other. 

Doing so can bring great results in terms of increased employee retention, reduced absenteeism and better productivity levels at the workplace, thus creating a direct and positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.

However, as we know that everything has a negative as well as a positive side, organizations while implementing the aforementioned step should also ensure confidentiality for employees that open up and share their problems. Their identity should be secured in every manner and this can be achieved by ways such as enabling access to message boards or private helplines, which could get them assistance by interacting with professionals (counsellors and psychologists), whenever there is a need. 

To make it happen, HR managers would play a key role in sensitizing employees and driving awareness around mental wellness. This can be achieved by posting informative bulletins, newsletters, and educational mailers, etc. Big names like Nike and Google have already adopted mindfulness coaching, which includes mental health sessions and workshops spearheaded by experts in this space, as a key practice to promote a healthy work culture. Through these sessions, employees can clarify their mental health-related queries and take expert tips on how to improve it. Initiatives like these are essential in modern businesses, helping employees maintain work-life balance despite busy work schedules. 

In doing so, organizations should also make sure they don’t stop after the implementation phase. Frequent monitoring is the key to ensure that these programs run well with necessary modifications, as and when required. Organizations should keep taking and embracing employee feedback after organizing every program to keep a check on their effectiveness. For this, they must weigh in the general employee perception and also do weekly or monthly dipstick checks. Doing it right can save a lot of expenses and make sure that these programs don’t turn out wasteful or daunting for the employees. 

Learning from the best practices in other nations 

According to a survey conducted by the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) in the UK, 60% of organizations consider mental health as a key factor to ramp up employee productivity levels and achieve the same through wellness programs. Bhutan has a similar, stronger vision. They measure success not by economic growth but by gross national happiness (GNH). Here, the quality of life is measured through the right balance between materialistic and spiritual development; the reason why it is ranked as the happiest country in the world. 

India, on the other hand, comprises only 10% of organizations that take employee health and wellness seriously. This is why, a major population of working professionals employed in the private sector have some kind of anxiety disorder or depression, as highlighted by a 2019 ASSOCHAM study. 

Just like the UK and many other countries that are successfully running wellness programs in their workplaces, it’s high time for Indian organizations to learn and promote such programs across the country. The everyday advancements in the corporate world are pushing professionals to spend about one-third of their lives in front of laptops and desktops, thus making workplace stress a new normal in today’s modern world. For organizations, it is thus increasingly essential to wake up to mental health matters and take care of employees’ mental and emotional wellbeing for the greater good. 

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Mental Health stress Pooja Mehra


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