The talk, these days, is not about new jobs or packages offered. It is about the way workplace mental health pressures are being negotiated. With pressures mounting, competition and workplace politics, mental health troubles seem to have doubled. At times, fewer or no help leads to employees leaving for healthier prospects. But some companies are providing a helping hand to their employees to ease mental health pressures for an organic work atmosphere. These programmes are now a part of the HR policy.
For Gurgaon-based Mercer|Mettl, taking mental health seriously is a norm. This skill assessment and talent acquisition platform has been providing technology-driven skill assessments to organisations. Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer| Mettl, mentions that they have a global Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to keep its employees’ mental and physical health in check. “It is managed by Cigna with its partner, Workplace Options in Asia. The key benefits include no cost to the employee and availability of assistance through a counsellor or a psychologist 24 hours a day, even on a weekend or holiday. Confidentiality is ensured. We also conduct regular webinars and workshops to spread awareness about mental health.”
The programme had a simple reason to start. “Since its inception, we’ve strived to create a ‘listening culture’ where decision-making at an organisational level is done basis employee feedback. The aim is to have complete transparency and accountability with employee health at the forefront. You can’t expect an employee to have a positive employee experience if they are not in a good mental/physical space,” shares Siddhartha.
Shrey Bhardwaj, Founder & Director, PerfectionGeek Technologies, echoes similar sentiments. This Delhi-NCR-based start-up offers a range of IT solutions. “For the dynamic force of growth and work conditions, one of the major factors we address for our employees is mental health. We conduct different programmes for workers to release mental health problems like showcasing their talent on the open stage. We encourage our employees to participate, which helps to reduce the mental work pressure.”
He firmly believes that a toxic environment is detrimental to mental health. “We started with few policies before the pandemic hit to destress. Employees, at times, do not wish to discuss their issues; we witness some of those struggling in their daily personal and working styles. Pandemic made us bring in a lot of stuff for employee engagement like one-on-one sessions and virtual yoga sessions to make them feel a bit better. Earlier, we tried activities after getting a positive response. We are on the speedy way to associate with different mental health programmes within our work culture.”
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Smith+Nephew, a leading portfolio medical technology company, restores people’s bodies and self-belief using technology to take the limits of living. Smith+Nephew India has 700+ employees across India with a business portfolio in Orthopaedics, Advanced Wound Management and Sports Medicine and ENT. Kiran Ahuja, Sr Manager — India and ASEAN, Smith+Nephew, reveals, “Care for our employees is a key part of our company’s culture. We have an extensive and active programme in place that supports the emotional, physical, financial and social wellness of our colleagues. We run several initiatives which are open to all staff, including our Employee Assistance Programme, regular webinars, group meditations and signposting to further support and mental health first aiders.”
Their activities and programmes were already in place. But Ahuja reveals, “However, we recognised the potential strain on mental health that the pandemic and lockdowns might produce. To help support our teams, we enhanced and re-launched our well-being programme.”
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Positivity and some success is a work in progress. Bhardwaj is quite honest. “We believe in a workplace where everyone can thrive. Good mental health at work and management goes hand-in-hand. We believe that work-related stress is a growing problem around the world. It does affect the well-being of employees and their productivity towards organisations.”
Counselling at PerfectionGeek helps employees discuss the concerning issues for proper resolution and utmost support. “There is enforcement and implementation of health and safety policies and practices. We involve employees in decision making which conveys a feeling of control and participation. We undertake programmes for career development, thus recognising and rewarding the contribution of employees,” says Bhardwaj.
At Smith+Nephew India, Ahuja still feels there is reluctance amongst employees to talk about issues like stress, anxiety and personal, physical or mental stress. “We have seen a small increase in the number of times our EAP has been accessed compared to the past few years. We encourage employees to discuss well-being and seek assistance for any matters related to their health, safety and mental health, as this has a direct impact on their work, personal lives and well-being and eventually on productivity.”
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Need for regulation
Offering solutions to mental health pressures has become a two-way street for both the employee and company. These days, there is also the talk about great resignation and attrition. Ahuja reveals, “Employee assistance programmes help employees improve the well-being, build resilience and increase productivity. Employees feel more engaged, supported. Benefits include reduction in absenteeism, engaged employees and long-term retention of key talent.”
Bhardwaj gives importance to keeping employees’ healthy state of mind. “We spend most of the time at work. At times we can be frustrated and stressed. To relieve and accompany a sound work culture, we believe mental programmes should be implemented. Workers, while being in excessive workload, can lead to resignation, stress and at times suicide. Every company should initiate HR policies with mental health programmes to assist workers to work in sound and healthy state.”
It is time negotiating workplace mental health pressures get their due credit. It will go a long way.
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