How Employers Can Promote Better Mental Health in the Workplace
While general awareness about mental health issues is increasing, seeing information about it on social media and actually bringing up the topic of mental health in day-to-day conversations with other people are two separate matters. This is especially true when it comes to discussions about mental health in the workplace, a venue generally reserved for less personal conversations.
In line with this year’s World Mental Health Day theme of Mental Health For All, here we highlight the importance of mental health discussions in the workplace and active measures that employers can take to make them a norm.
In an international survey conducted by AIA Vitality in 2019, 51% of Malaysians reported having at least one dimension of work-related stress, with 7% displaying moderate to high levels of anxiety or depressive symptoms. Organisations in Malaysia also reported losing an average of 73.3 days of work time per employee per year due to absence and presenteeism, costing an average of RM1,460,774 per month in 2019.
Presenteeism refers to a situation where an employee attends work but is unable to perform his or her duties due to health issues, loss of concentration or stress, among other reasons.
Considering the prevalence of mental health conditions and the effect on productivity and the bottom line, it is critical that companies broach the topic of mental health in the workplace in order to better address the needs and concerns of their employees. Establishing an environment in which it is appropriate and accepted to speak about mental health issues is the first step in this process.
Here are steps that employers can take to make employees more comfortable about opening up about their mental wellbeing:
Be the first to open up
Many employees are reluctant to talk about mental health as it can feel too personal. There is also the fear that the state of their mental health can be used against them, whether it be through water cooler gossip or increasing their risk of being fired.
Employers can empower candid discussions by being the first to open up. By doing so, employers will foster trust with employees and make it easier for employees to do the same. Initiating these conversations can happen at work or even informal settings outside of work.
Companies must affirm that having feelings of anxiety or depression do not reduce an employee’s value nor their worth as a person.
Provide employees with mental health care services
This can be done in-person or online. It is common for employers to engage counsellors or offer free therapy services. Earlier this year, Starbucks offered their employees and eligible family members 20 free sessions of mental health support per year. The alternative, and a more attractive option given the global pandemic, is to provide employees with digital therapeutics for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Connecting employees remotely with licensed mental health professionals not only offers flexibility and convenience but is more cost-effective than in-person support.
Provide safe spaces
Employers can also provide time and space for employees to confide in each other through the formation of support groups or online chat rooms. This affords employees a safe space where they are able to discuss personal matters confidentially and support each other.
Create a more accepting atmosphere
Discourage working excessively long hours regularly. Longer hours do not necessarily indicate a better quality of work or higher productivity. Instead, emphasise the importance of a work-life balance and show that the company respects the private time of its employees. Companies can also implement policies and programmes that are geared towards mental health and the wellbeing of their employees. For extra guidance, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed a module to aid organisations in implementing workplace mental health policies.
Remember, a happy and thriving workforce makes for a happy and thriving company. As Richard Branson put it, “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business.”
To find out more on how your organisation can benefit from a mental wellness program, please email email@example.com for a free demonstration.
- Writen by:
- Asma' Jailani