Even before COVID 19, the relentless pace of business, growth of technology, and ‘always-on’ working culture were affecting employee mental health. The coronavirus epidemic has magnified this. Increasingly, employees now face having to work remotely, heightened concerns around economic and political uncertainties and instability of jobs, resulting in enormous pressure, especially for those suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.
Depression and anxiety are a growing phenomenon and cost the global economy around US$1 trillion per year in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organisation. According to Aon’s APAC Benefits Strategy Study 2017, 72% of employers recognise that mental issues are a concern. However, only 51% offer emotional and psychological wellness programmes to their employees, despite these conditions contributing significantly to the burden of workplace disability, lost days and reduced productivity.
Mental Health issues also do not discriminate industries or levels of seniority, and so interventions must be developed, implemented and evaluated that support every employee, regardless of position.
So what simple steps can employers introduce to support mental wellness in their organisation?
- Leadership support – for a culture to be established, it needs leadership buy-in to create an organisation-wide ripple effect.
- Key Performance Indicator (KPI) – Include employee wellness as a KPI for senior managers and managers.
- Reduce the stigma – openly discuss stress management, self-care, and mental health.
- Ensure regular self-assessment for employees – these establish how well they are coping. and provide early intervention where necessary.
- Promote a work/life balance – encourage employees to regularly re-charge with exercise, healthy diets, and participation in leisure activities vital in the mental health battle, as well as taking holidays.
- Create employee assistance programs – offer free screening tools and confidential personal counselling, coaching, and services, such as mental health workshops.
- Employee-led initiatives – these include peer support groups and weekly exercise activities to create a positive wellness culture.
- Create open communication channels – provide a ‘safe space’ to discuss mental health in the workplace. Support managers with training on how to recognise the signs of mental health, create a positive work culture and support those who need help.
Providing various forms of support for employees that develop their mental wellbeing, whether they’re working from the office or remotely, could be one of the most important steps an employer can take to improve an individual’s welfare, as well as the health and productivity of the entire organisation.