Amidst endless struggles with deadlines, virtual meetings, deliverables, achieving KPIs and most importantly staying safe from the virus, how often do you overlook your mental health needs? Although HR departments and consultants are undertaking initiatives that enhance an employee’s experience at the workplace, how many of these initiatives address an employee’s well-being?
Granted some of these initiatives ensure an employee stays physically healthy, but it doesn’t ensure a holistic well-being wherein one’s mental health is also addressed. And that’s where your HR is going wrong with regards to dealing with mental health at work.
Break the stigma – normalizing mental health
According to the TLLLF National Survey Report 2018, 47% of the general Indian population tended to keep a safe distance from those with a mental illness. Furthermore, 62% of the participants used terms like “crazy or mad” to describe mental health. This signifies that spreading awareness isn’t the bigger challenge but the stigma around it is the main barrier.
Besides sensitizing the workforce around the topic, it is important for the organization to create and continue the conversation on mental health. Highlight stories of leaders and great personalities who have succeeded in their careers despite suffering from certain mental health illnesses. Normalize the conversation and have teams openly engage in such a dialogue that creates a positive environment for all. Including mental health care in the insurance policy adds further value to the HR’s goal of maintaining an open and safe workplace culture.
Is your EAP enough?
Does your EAP fit the employee demographic profile and their individual needs, or is it a generic one-fit-for-all? It is important that the initiatives in the EAP are willingly and readily availed by the workforce it is designed for. The EAP needs to be inclusive of an employee’s mental well-being so as to encourage them to introspect and seek help if need be. Given that the stigma around mental health is so overpowering, they need to be assured that they will not be judged when availing a counselling service.
On an organization level, the HR department needs to proactively conduct and invite employees to practice mindfulness through interactive workshops and interventions that have proven to aid in recovery of mental health issues and potentially prevent it as well. If an in-house counsellor isn’t available, partner with external sources and hotlines that to provide assistance in this field.
Prevention is better than cure
With a raging pandemic that is affecting the mental health even of those unaffected by the virus, organizations have to be at the top of their game with providing support. As the workforce continues to work remotely, it is essential to keep them in sync. Host weekly engagement and fun activities to destress the teams and to curb the feeling of FOMO. Boosting morale and inspiring the workforce during such times plays a major role in keeping team spirits high as well as productivity. Rewards and recognition is another crucial contributor to sustaining a healthy and friendly workplace culture, thus reducing stress and anxiety.
In this process, one must not forget to take note of red flags and nip the problem in the bud before it escalates. With a prolonged WFH scenario, working hours are increasing and so are the cases of burnout. Identify those who are experiencing symptoms of burnout and stress and aid ease their situation. Preventing the growth of a mental health disorder is far more beneficial for any employee and the company.
While the onus of organizational mental well-being lies with each individual, the HR department should probably take up the task and lead the process of ownership on this. If not for anything else, because you are regarded as the body that is (or should be) of the people, by the people and for the people. There are instances when each of us needs a little bit of external help to manage our stress better especially with work-life spill-over becoming more common. It’s time we re-think the need to understand and improve mental health at work to make workplaces happier places to work in.