Companies urged to break the silence on mental health in the workplace

Published: Thursday 12th August 2021

Mental health in the workplace is often seen as a taboo subject amongst many employers. Until recently there was still a stigma around counting anxiety and depression as grounds for taking absence. Covid-19 has drawn further attention to the topic of mental health due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. A 2020 survey revealed that 36% of Indian employees are suffering from mental health issues. So what can companies do to address the elephant in the room? Continue reading below to learn how to implement mental health awareness in the workplace.

team of indian people discussing mental health in the workplace

Have a strong health and wellbeing policy 

HR is the best place to start with removing the mental health stigma in the workplace. It allows the business to monitor employee wellbeing across the entire workplace. Lack of sleep (40%) and stress (34%) account for the largest proportion of mental health issues in the workplace, so if you can address these, it is likely you will eliminate a huge portion of these issues should they arise. If a policy is written specifically on mental health, this will give employees the necessary protections should they suffer from mental health illnesses. For example, you may offer extended paid leave for people suffering from severe anxiety or depression. This will set you apart from other companies. It will also serve as an example to other businesses in the future.

It is also important when considering employing new members of staff. Such a policy gives businesses an opportunity to ask interviewees their stance on mental health procedures. This is good when wanting to bring people on board who share the same vision of a workplace that values and takes good mental health practice seriously.

Consider hosting a mental health in the workplace day

Drawing attention to mental health in the workplace can sometimes be the most difficult thing. It often comes with a hidden illness or few physical characteristics. Some businesses across India have introduced a mental health day. Usually on World Mental Health Day, 10th October. This is designed to encourage discussion amongst colleagues about the impact of mental health. This may include workshops, seminars and surveys to help colleagues understand the implications of mental health and how debilitating it can be.

This is also an excuse to get creative! Fliers, email campaigns, and posters are all popular mediums to get the message across to staff.

charity team building exercise to raise awareness of mental health

Involve staff in decision-making processes

The sign of a healthy workplace is one that gives its staff a voice, asking them to put forward their ideas for policies, practices, services, and products. Not only can staff feel valued when their voices are heard, but it also encourages them to speak out on other topics such as mental health. This may be as simple as having a suggestion box or as complex as nominating a representative to act on behalf of the staff members as part of ‘the board’. However, if a company decides to act on this, the point is to encourage dialogue amongst colleagues.

Duvet day / casual leave policy 

The duvet day used to be seen as a perk for workplaces that went above and beyond to look after their colleagues. However, now it is being considered a staple thing to offer new employees. This is usually up to four per year, or once per quarter. This gives all of your workers a chance to call in and have the day off without any questions asked. This can be an effective way to combat mental health outbursts. Those who suffer cannot predict when an ‘attack’ may happen, especially in the case of depression or anxiety. A study in the UK showed that this reduces the number of sick days people take overall.

In most cases, colleagues will understand business requirements and will use common sense when using their duvet days simply because this kind of perk is one that increases employee morale. Amongst companies that work remotely, duvet days are rarely used, so should not impact the business too much if you are to offer them as a positive perk.

Work/life balance

It can be very easy for an employer to slip into the habit of making employees work longer hours. This is to ensure work is completed by offering overtime at a higher rate to convince staff it’s a worthy idea. The truth is that many workers may not see extra money as an incentive. They may want to get home to an active social life. You may want to encourage your employees to finish work exactly when they are supposed to. It is popular to introduce team building days, whereby work is halted to go and bond as a team. A team that is close socially is more likely to open up to one another and as a result, deliver better results in work. Some experts have forecasted that mental health may cost the Indian economy over $1 billion.

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