How often have people come across colleagues at the workplace or close friends dealing with mental health issues like high anxiety, anger and depression? In the era of continuous disruption, and never-ending demands of the workplace and home, there is a high chance that anyone can experience mental health issues. While there is still excessive research work should be put into a system to resolve psychological issues with satisfactory outcomes.
The silver lining is the realisation and normalisation of mental health issues, which can drive significant and necessary changes in the environment. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report is a testimony to why we need more inclusive and flexible ways to continue living sustainably.
Stigma vs Support
It is disturbing to note that workplaces still suffer from several myths due to a lack of information on mental health. The stigma associated with mental health issues is a serious roadblock for organizations to start taking positive action. Organizations need to understand that people suffering from mental health conditions can continue to make meaningful contributions with little help. Making effective interventions to take care of mental health should be a priority for building a high performance and caring work culture. The first step is to recognize mental health issues and then build allies within the organization. It requires structured programs and workplace conversations to eradicate the myths. An organization that is open about the focus on employees’ overall well-being, can help them overcome exhaustion from depression and feel comfortable sharing concerns with their peers. Reducing behavioural-health stigma can only be done by creating the right culture that allows employees to discuss openly and seek support. While organisations are adopting new ways of working across the globe, the leaders and decision-makers are still navigating their way through the landscape of complexities and hindrances. On the surface, back-to-office scenarios seem normal to manage, but there are patterns observed as far the employee behaviour is concerned.
Need for action
Employers need to start doing more to take care of yet another wave of stress and anxiety as employees get back to the offices. Behavioural-health stigma affects everything from interpersonal interactions to performance and productivity. This prevents people from reaching out to their friends/family/colleagues/managers for support, especially at the time when they’re most vulnerable. The feeling of being out of place in the world gives birth to a sense of shame and guilt. Employees would often protect this side to avoid employers doubting their potential to achieve business goals. To address these challenges, employers can consider taking the following actions:
- Addressing negative workplace environment and ensuring a clear communication channel across teams to avoid floor politics.
- Educating employees on mental health and its effects (Evidence-based education), ways of supporting your colleagues, flexible policies, manager training for recognizing stressed employees, eliminating discriminatory behaviour, and non-stigmatizing language.
- Identifying the methods of distress, promoting workplace practices for a healthy environment, and introducing rewards and recognition programs for employees.
Accepting the challenge and making real progress
Speaking about the realisation of mental issues, it all begins with recognizing a few symptoms that can help one put a finger on deep-rooted mental health such as lack of sleep, continuous feeling of despair, and anxiety over a long period, and so on. Hence, the importance of healthy communication at each level can never be underestimated. Overcoming a mental illness is a journey. Even people who are regarded as super-achievers have had their share of mental roadblocks. A most decorated Olympian like Michael Phelps also battled his way out of depression and created a prevailing legacy.
Thus, given the toll mental issues have on an employee’s well-being and performance, employers should be highly determined to invest in behavioural health and empower them with resources to cope better. Most importantly, understanding that destigmatizing mental illness and encouraging an open-door policy can accelerate real-time improvements in employee productivity, leading to cultural evolution and economic gains for the organisation.