When you think of a counselor at work, is the first thing in your mind a sense of being overwhelmed? Will I be judged at work? Is HR going to track me down? Will this affect my appraisals?
No wonder then that an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which, is essentially a program in place to assist employees in an organisation to work through their personal (and professional) problems, thereby improving their mental health; is looked at with such dismay.
As an employer, it’s often the numbers that speak louder than anything else. And a common question is whether it’s really worthwhile investing in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or Mental Health policy. Considering that in an average 9-5 job, employees spend eight hours of their day at office, and in several other jobs, even longer – Does it not clearly warrant that organisations take up responsibility for their employees’ mental and emotional well-being?
Why is discussion and policymaking important?
And that’s not it. While opting for counselling or therapy may be voluntary, the fact that mental health is still a taboo topic in India makes it less likely for people to seek professional support. With mental illnesses like anxiety and depression being trivialised or swept under the carpet, your workforce needs to witness you taking firm action to support mental health concerns. A Willis Towers Watson study offers some perspective on how far we have come – As of 2018, a mere 29% of companies in India had a mental health action plan in place.
Alongside policies and programs, it’s also important to openly talk about mental health at the workplace. Through internal communication campaigns, or via seminars and talks by mental health professionals, normalising the topic is the first step to executing an EAP that not only helps your organisation, but also supports the well-being of your employees.
Taking a step back from all of this, let’s look the adverse effects of poor mental health on organisations. According to the World Health Organisation, India will lose an estimated $1.03 trillion by 2030 due to mental health conditions. This only reaffirms the dire need for attention to this sphere. Your company’s bottom line suffers when you ignore the mental health of your employees.
Who should benefit?
Another important thing for employers to be mindful of is that most people cannot afford therapy sessions. The average cost of a 45 minute to 1-hour session is anywhere between INR 500 and INR 2000, with prices in metros like Mumbai going up to INR 8000 per hour. If therapy is required on a regular basis, the affordability factor plays a massive role in being able to attend these sessions. And here, we are not just considering the white-collar employees. The blue-collar staff of an organization should also be roped into EAPs, with the surety that empanelled therapists are comfortable with at least the common regional language of the state. A well-crafted EAP program provides easy access to counseling sessions. It’s time that we as a society begin to look at mental health as a need and a right, and not as a luxury.
So, as we sit and introspect and reflect on the needs of our employees, it’s also a good idea to reach out to a mental health consultant and a counselor from day one. This will ensure that your programs and policies take into consideration multiple factors, including industry, job role, male to female ratio, generational composition, and of course the general environment at your workplace. In a country where 42.5% of corporate employees suffer from depression or anxiety, according to a 2016 Assocham study, it’s clear that EAPs and mental health action plans are the need of the hour.
Is your organization ready to take the next step and invest in a holistic well-being policy?