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Mental Wellbeing And Workplace

The corporates can become the flag-bearer of this change initiative which can then percolate down to the society where-in people are open to discuss mental ailments and also seek active support to come out of the same

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Mental health issues are seen as a big taboo in India and are rarely discussed. This leads to people not opening up about their problems and avoiding counselling. This trend is now reaching an alarming proportion and is making our young workforce highly vulnerable. According to the latest World Health Organization report on depression, almost 7.5% of Indians suffer from major or minor mental disorders that require expert intervention.

The situation gets bad as we move to the corporate sector. High growth and competitiveness is driving our young population to push themselves to their maximum limits, which is coming at a huge cost to their mental wellbeing.  Surveys conducted last year stated that nearly 46% people felt stressed related to their work. Corporate India has lost some young CXOs and CEOs, in recent past, which can be attributable to workplace stress.

The major concern for this problem, as discussed above, is the taboo surrounding it.  To begin with, the employees do not accept their problem, which further aggravates it. Even if diagnosed, they would not like their employers to know about it, owing to a fear of social stigma in workplace and also of it impacting their career prospects. On other hand, the employer would not know how to handle an employee who is being treated for depression or any other mental health condition.

Looking at the bright side, the things have started to move in a positive direction. In recent days, with a few of the celebrities opening-up about their fight against depression, how they battled it and continue to move ahead, it is becoming more acceptable for people to talk about feeling stressed and depressed.

The Indian corporates need to start evaluating the challenges their employees face around mental health and its impact on their lives and also on workplace productivity. Some steps that can be taken in this direction are:

Let the taboo rest
Create a culture in the organization where people are able to talk about stress, depression or other symptoms of mental ailments without the fear of persecution. Approach it as any other wellness activity and educate the employees around the benefits of undergoing treatment / therapy in time to ensure that the damage is minimal.

Reduce work stress
Evaluate the triggers of stress in the work environment. It could be lack of resources, the working hours, inability to manage home and office due to work schedule, fear of job loss, wrong fitment in the job, relationship with manager and colleagues etc. Once the right problem area is identified, work with the people to address them appropriately to ensure that the workplace stress issues are eliminated. A few tweaks in the policies and programs can also help reduce some of the problems which lead to stress.  
 
Educate the managers
The most important link in ensuring a better work environment are the managers. They can become the champions who can bring about the cultural change in the organization. They can help identify the employees who are under stress. They can then facilitate the process of educating the individual employee, provide a trusting mentor who will understand their problems and help eliminate the cause of stress. The managers need to understand the various programs and policies available for the employees and then empowered to suggest the right program which will help the employees in managing their lives better.

Provide counselling support

Many a time employees hesitate to get the right support or guidance in identification and resolution of the mental ailments and issues. People also do not know whom to approach in case there is a problem. To deal with this, the organization can create an anonymous counselling helpline for all the employees, which they can approach if they feel the need to seek guidance or support on such issues. The managers should also encourage the employees to be less hesitant in seeking support from the helpline. Once there are a few success stories, the employees will help spread the word to others which will encourage others as well to seek the support and guidance which is readily available to them.

To conclude, stress at workplace is now becoming the root cause of a lot of health, productivity and culture issues. There is a strong need to break the shackles surrounding mental health. As a society, we need to be more open and view mental health just like any other health issue like diabetes, hypertension etc.

Corporates need to lead this change by adopting this culture. The corporates can become the flag-bearer of this change initiative which can then percolate down to the society where-in people are open to discuss mental ailments and also seek active support to come out of the same. Amen !

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Jaskaran Singh

The author is an Innovation Architect at Fitastik

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