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This blogpost partakes from a blogpost published in INSEAD Knowledge by the author Enoch Li. It is a very relevant and important topic.
Mental Health in the Workplace seems out of place at first glance. We may think we hire the best brains in the best conditions; how can we have mental health issues? Please consider Demotivation, Frustration, Disengagement, Conflicts, Stress and Burnout; these are all indicators of mental health issues. However, mental health is not recognized in the workplace as an issue somehow. In few organizations, periodic climate surveys are done to assess the satisfaction level of employees. However, these surveys are few and far between and do not cover the scope of issues faced by employees in the workplace. More recently, there has been a greater focus on harassment which is among the biggest factors for mental anguish and stress.
COVID and the resulting issues have increased prevalence of negative emotions, fear, anxiety and is a serious cause of concern for mental health. We are still not talking about it, which reflects on how we treat employees generally.
Pakistan may be termed as an employers’ market where employees are always in queue to get a job. Hiring is cheaper and replacement is easy. The employers mostly therefore do not concern themselves with long term welfare of employees. Talent Acquisition, Talent Management and Talent Retention are buzzwords in some other kind of organizations.
Having said that, mental health at the workplace is an important topic and should be discussed publicly and often to create awareness, find solutions and keep the movement going.
Enoch Li proposes four steps to create effective and sustainable mental health solutions.
- Know your Customers
In organizations, where mental wellbeing is considered and monitored, the emphasis is on the pre-designed plan and format. The actual needs of the employees may not be considered, much less addressed. It is important to understand what is actually required by the staff. Their requirements should be reconciled with the mental health programs design. Matching the two will increase the effectiveness and longevity of such programs.
2. Align your leadership team
Talking about our local work environment, the leadership team alignment is the most difficult task to accomplish. Silos are formed in all organizations, particularly in larger organizations. The leadership team is always busy reinforcing their own trenches and it is hard to get them on a single point. Problem is that no initiative would be successful without sponsorship of leadership team. Enoch Li talks of alignment in a different perspective, but our local considerations are different. In order to carry forward agenda of mental health and balance in the workplace, alignment of Leadership team is critical.
3. Go “glocal”
Glocal stands for a fusion of global and local initiatives. In multinational organizations, the global initiatives may not consider local needs or sensitivities. For example, in our part of the world, emotions run high in workplace and any program not considering emotional aspect is doomed to be ineffective. Larger organizations within countries with diverse businesses and multiple locations are likely to face similar challenges. Stress levels across industries are different and across departments and regions within the same industry are different. The mental health initiatives which are aimed at catering the entire organization, must make adjustment for these factors.
4. Make it mandatory.
All of the important measures and initiatives must be made mandatory for execution. We have seen the impunity and carelessness accorded to such soft initiatives. Therefore, it is needed that doing mental health workshops be made mandatory in all regions. This will improve the outcome of programs.
Mental Health at the workplace is not an abstract ideology; It is an economic exercise aimed at tackling day to day issues at the workplace. Running Mental Health programs shall help in reducing absenteeism, increasing attendance, decrease anxiety and depression, preempt burnout, and improve overall performance.
Enoch Li is the Founder of Bearapy, an award-winning workplace mental health consulting and training company that drives social impact and change in China. She is also a Leadership Consultant at INSEAD Executive Coaching, and the author of Stress in the City: Playing My Way Out of Depression, which discusses mental well-being and the merits of adult playfulness in the organisational context.