Mental Health at Work: Is it something to ‘bear’ in mind? 

April 8, 2023

High-profile athletes and entertainers have increasingly been speaking out about their struggles with mental well-being in recent years. Very few business leaders have done the same. There’s a simple reason for that: There’s still a stigma associated with revealing such seeming vulnerability at work. 

Introduction:  

Mental health at work is an increasingly important topic that has gained significant attention in recent years. While physical health has traditionally been the focus of workplace safety and wellness programs, there is a growing recognition that mental health is just as important. This is especially true in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought mental health issues to the forefront. 

 

It is therefore essential that employers take steps to ensure that their employees are supported in their mental health and well-being. 

A few work-related reasons people don’t seek mental health assistance include:  

  • Finances. People might not have the money or insurance coverage for mental health treatment or won’t be paid for taking any absences. 
  • Job responsibilities. People might worry how they’re going to complete tasks if they take time from work to seek help or recover. 
  • Stigma. People might be afraid that their supervisors will release them or reassign their work or that other people will treat them differently or discriminate against them. 

Whether treated or untreated, mental illness can harm employees’ quality of life. The conditions can also hurt their workplaces. 

 

Survey of Mental Health in India  

Mental health is an emerging concern in India, and there is a lack of comprehensive statistical data on mental health at work. However, some studies and surveys have shed light on the prevalence of mental health issues in the workplace in India. Here are some key findings: 

  1. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 75% of Indian employees are experiencing stress at work.
  2. A study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) found that around 42.5% of employees in the Indian private sector suffer from depression or general anxiety disorder.
  3. The National Mental Health Survey of India conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) found that around 6.5% of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental illness.
  4. A survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that India has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, with around 258,000 people dying from suicide each year.
  5. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, workplace stress was found to be a significant predictor of anxiety and depression among Indian employees.
  6.  A survey conducted by Optum found that around 46% of employees in India reported suffering from workplace-related stress, and around 50% reported that their employers did not have any mental health support programs in place.
  7.  According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2017, the prevalence of mental health disorders in the Indian workforce ranged from 12.5% to 47.7%, with depression being the most common disorder.
  8. Another study published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2019 found that nearly 30% of IT professionals in India reported high levels of stress, and 14% reported symptoms of depression. 

These statistics highlight the need for more attention and resources to be devoted to addressing mental health issues in the workplace in India. 

 

Improving Mental Health in the Workplace 

 The first step in creating a supportive environment for mental health at work is to create a culture of openness and understanding. This means creating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues and concerns, and where they feel supported in seeking help. This can be done through providing training for managers and supervisors on how to recognize and respond to mental health issues, as well as providing mental health resources and support services for employees 

Mental health issues can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to work effectively. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and stress can lead to absenteeism, presenteeism (when an employee is present at work but not fully functioning), and reduced productivity. In addition, poor mental health can contribute to workplace accidents and injuries, as well as an increased risk of long-term disability. 

Moreover, work-related stress has been identified as one of the leading causes of poor mental health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), work-related stress is a significant health and safety issue and can lead to both physical and psychological problems. 

 

What can employers do to support mental health at work? 

Employers have a critical role to play in supporting the mental health of their employees. Some of the measures that organizations can take include:  

  1. Promoting awareness and reducing stigma: Employers can help to reduce the stigma around mental health by promoting awareness and education about mental health issues. This can include providing training to managers and employees on how to recognize and support colleagues who may be struggling. 
  2. Creating a supportive work environment: Employers can create a supportive work environment by promoting work-life balance, providing flexible working arrangements, and fostering a culture of open communication and support. 
  3. Providing access to mental health resources: Employers can offer access to mental health resources, such as an employee assistance program (EAP), counseling services, and mental health training. 
  4. Accommodating individual needs: Employers can also work with individual employees to accommodate their mental health needs, such as providing accommodation for a disability or allowing time off for medical appointments. 

 

  1. II. What can employees do to support their own mental health at work?

While employers have a responsibility to support their employees’ mental health, individuals can also take steps to support their own mental health at work. Some of these steps include: (visual elements) 

  • Practicing self-care: This can include taking breaks throughout the day, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 
  • Seeking support: Employees can seek support from their colleagues, managers, or an EAP if they are struggling with their mental health. 
  • Setting boundaries: Employees can set boundaries to manage their workload and ensure that they are not taking on too much work. 
  • Taking time off when needed: Employees can take time off when they need it, whether it is for a mental health break or to attend medical appointments. 

 

III   How are some organisations setting up mental wellness programs at the workplace? 

Mental health is no longer something that companies can leave up to their employees to prioritize. Job satisfaction, work-life balance, the company’s culture, and finances have been shown to directly impact individual health. It is not surprising that productivity declines as a worker’s health declines. Here are 7 ways organisations can prioritize the mental health of their employees.  

 

7 Ways to Enhance the Health and Well-Being of Your Workers  

1.Integrate coverage for mental health in your health insurance policy. 

Many of the uncertainties and concerns about one’s health and finances are eliminated by having comprehensive health insurance coverage.  

Regrettably, physical health was the only aspect of health insurance for a very long period. Health insurance companies in India were instructed to include disorders related to mental health in all standard health insurance policies by the insurance regulator, IRDAI. The costs of inpatient treatments for mental illness are typically covered by these policies. 

2.Allow employees to choose when and where they work. 

Several studies have found that giving workers more choice or control over their work schedules improves their mental health.  

An extensive work redesign at a Fortune 500 company — where IT employees were given control over when and where they did their work but still collaborated with their teammates to ensure coordination — resulted in physical and mental health improvements for employees as well as reduced turnover for the business. 

3.Promote work/life balance 

Empowering teams and individual employees to manage their own time and focus on productivity rather than counting every single hour worked can help breed a healthy work environment. Employees feel valued and safe in environments that foster trust. Give employees the freedom to take time off without judgement between work periods. Understanding how the work environment is affecting your employees’ mental health is the best way to address problems – this includes unrealistic goals, schedules, and workloads. Encourage everyone to develop a fulfilling life beyond office responsibilities. As much as possible, integrate flexibility into your work culture. 

4.Keep your organization adequately staffed, so its workload is reasonable. 

High work demands can take a toll on employee health and well-being. 

In fact, numerous studies find that high demands coupled with low control create health risks, including depression, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Staffing up to spread out the workload may seem expensive at first, but it can save you money in the long run as employers also pay a real price when exhausted or ill employees burn out, are absent, or quit. A targeted change in staffing may help solve the problem. 

5. Encourage managers in your organization to support employees’ personal needs.

Many employees are also caregivers for children or elderly parents, and they benefit from supervisors who are more supportive of the challenges they face in trying to balance their work and personal lives. 

When applying for work, over 80% of people say the company’s mental health culture and benefits will shape their decision to work there. Based on this, you could say that workplace health has become a priority, and the companies that take part in this change can reap the benefits of a more productive and enthusiastic workforce.

6.Let employees unplug.

According to a 2021 report by Indeed, since Covid, over 50 % of workers say they are putting in longer hours and almost 30% said they can never unplug. Together with financial stress and a lack of paid time off, millennials indicated that a lack of free time is one of the main reasons for burnout.   Considering these facts, there is little question that lowering employee burnout can be advantageous to the business as well as the individual’s personal health.   

 Here are a few proven strategies that some organisations have implemented to lessen burnout on employees:  
  • Establishing rules that limit email usage to only during working hours. 
  • Minimizing overtime. 
  • Increasing staffing to alleviate workloads. 
  • Promoting vacations and expanding paid time off. 
  • Planning routine surveys to assess burnout rates. 
  • Setting up Play zones with indoor games like chess, table tennis, and a few board games.

Conclusion:  

In conclusion, mental health at work is an important issue that requires attention from both employers and employees. By creating a supportive work environment, promoting awareness and education, and providing access to mental health resources, employers can support the mental health of their employees. At the same time, employees can take steps to support their own mental health by practicing self-care, seeking support, setting boundaries, and taking time off when needed. Together, we can work towards creating a healthier and more productive workplace. 

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