World mental health day was celebrated on the 10th of October 2022, by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) with the theme “Make mental health for all a global priority”. Xobin as a part of the world mental health celebration interacted with Teju Nageswari, the founder and CEO of nSmiles, for episode 3 of XobinTalks 2.0 on the topic “Mental Health and Wellbeing at Workplace”.
In the present generation with evolving work culture, we often overlook the aspect of mental health. We tend to give importance to physical health, but we fail to look at our mental health until we realize that irreversible damage has been done. Most often the moment you enter the workplace, all you think about is work, targets, deliverables, etc., but seldom do people think of the person as an individual and what goes on in his mind, what is their mental state.
The substance of this mental health day theme was before the pandemic mental health assistance was just focused on people who are in distress, and also there was a social stigma in handling mental health for regular people. Post-pandemic working people were in high double distress, with loads of responsibilities to handle like managing the family, and maintaining the work-life balance. The pandemic tossed people’s life upside down in terms of health, relationships, finances, and job security. With this situation at hand, the WHO insisted on making mental health a priority for global well-being. Here well-being is a term that is not only related to physical health but also to mental health. This is to ensure that the mind and body work synchronously on a day-to-day basis for effective well-being and maximize productivity in the workplace. This would force the employers to focus on other avenues of mental health, rather than focus on a single point, and widen the vision by analyzing where the employees would suffer the most.
As every individual is not the same, so is the level of mental health, the needs of a person who is a fresher would be different from the needs of the person who is experienced, and much more different than the needs of the person who has a chronic illness. There are a series of various stress levels which when left unmanaged may lead to both physical and illnesses. In certain cases even before entering into the industry, they would be suffering from mental illness, if this is left unattended, the candidates might find it difficult to bypass even the interview stage, as they may not have the proper mental ability to crack the interview. But that does not make them unfit, all they need a proper counseling and corrective treatment. These unmanaged stress levels might force them to incline towards poor coping mechanisms like smoking, alcohol, etc. So it is high time that companies have to implement policies and look at the organizations as a whole family.
The productivity of the company gets subsided resulting from uncared mental health and well-being because when a person uses the organization as an escape mechanism for their personal problems, what kind of productivity would they bring to the organization is the big question. These people would be weak in decision-making, which would affect the productivity of the organization. When they have trouble communicating with others in the family, how will they be able to collaborate with other individuals in the organization? There are numerous such scenarios that can affect productivity and cost the organization dearly. The first step in mental health wellness is self-care and taking care of yourself starting from home. Previously laying off a person would be a hassle-free process citing the productivity issues with improper mental health and there were also policies enabling them. But at present, almost 70% of people suffer from mental health, which forces us to shift the focus to mental health and wellbeing, rather than sacking an employee. In the IT line of business, since the company’s productivity depends on human performance as they are an important asset, and that is the reason the company must focus on the employee’s well-being, which will directly affect the company’s productivity.
The most important aspect that affects productivity is anxiety. The moment anxiety kicks in, it affects the decision-making ability and productivity of the person. Anxiety makes the person feel uncomfortable and the person sees the problem as a huge problem even if the problem is small in magnitude.
Normalizing mental health and well-being start with proper policy making, where the company must shift from a single-person approach and view the organization as a whole. To enable this the first step is to fix a defined budget, just focussed on the mental health of the employees. Initiatives must be defined for every level of the organization i.e., the needs of a new employee will be completely different from a seasoned employee, so attention must be paid to every segment of the organization. Sharing life’s major events like pregnancy, major accidents, and personal loss and talking about them openly will help in maintaining a good work-life balance and also improve mental health. Transparency between the top management and employees is one way to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. So companies can provide a levy to the employees, under these circumstances if it doesn’t affect the productivity of the organization. Since we spend around 70% of our days time at the workplace, why not make it a happier place, with proper policies on mental health and well-being? This is one thing that organizations must look forward to. This helps in the drop-down of attrition, the moment the employee feels that special care is given to them when they are in need.
Before going for therapies, that would help in their mental health and wellbeing, employees should follow the 5 steps for well-being i.e.,
1. 30 mins of physical exercise every day,
2. Positive coping,
3. Connect with people (at least one trusted person)
4. Learn something new every single day and
5. Show empathy for the feelings of the person.