Yogesh Agarwal completed his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He is an Associate Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountant of India and also Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries – with a specialization in General Insurance from London and Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries of India.
Prior to embarking on his entrepreneurial journey, Yogesh started his professional career as a Statutory Auditor with Anil Agarwal & Associates where his role largely focused on statutory and concurrent audit, payroll processing and taxation. He then went on to join Bhudev Chatterjee Consulting as an Actuarial Analyst. In 2012, he joined KPMG Global Services Pvt. Ltd as a Senior Actuarial Consultant where he covered Indian and International Insurers and Reinsurers on P&C Actuarial Reserving and Pricing, transaction advisory, model validation and development, technical provision under Solvency II, capital modelling and transfer pricing.
With the pandemic causing a surge in mental health issues among employees, there is an urgent need for employers and entrepreneurs to address it with sensitivity. Not only does it help retain skilled talent but prevents tarnishing of the brand image when taken up as a regular practice as addressed in a timely fashion.
In the image below one can see how in the COVID era, the mental wellbeing of employees has worsened by 36%. The main causes leading to this deterioration of mental health are increased unemployment risks, financial insecurity, change in daily routine, lack of physical exercise, access to healthcare facilities, among many others. With the return to the pre-Covid routine and opening of offices, the change in lifestyle is leading to a rise in anxiety levels among employees after a year and a half of working from home. The responsibility of solving this by making workplaces a mental health friendly environment falls on every Indian entrepreneur.
While the first step towards this movement can be to address the issues which are stress-inducing for the employees, it is important for the entrepreneurs to have a strategy in place on how to deal with employees with mental health issues.
101: Smart Management of employees with mental health issues
Let’s take a step-by-step approach to managing employees with mental health issues:
Step 1: Awareness: People with mental health issues may not always show obvious signs or symptoms. Just as the syndromes vary, so do their stages. In fact, in India, most people are unaware of what mental health issues may entail. An individual employee might not even have been diagnosed and in most cases the management might not even be aware that they have people in their team with mental health issues.
Due to the fear of loss of employment many employees avoid disclosing their issues to the management at all. What adds to the issue is the right of the employer to dissolve an employment on the basis of a feeling that the employee is not healthy enough to work.
It is pivotal for the team leads and managers to have open communications with their teams around their mental wellbeing to gather an understanding of which team member needs help.
Step 2: Observations of people with mental health issues: The most common symptoms of any mental health issue are – changes in general behaviour, lack of motivation to work, reduced productivity, emotional bursts whether it is aggression, anger, or even self-isolation. There would also be a constant occurrence of sick leaves, mood changes.
Step 3: Mental examination at employee’s cost: This is the fastest way to find out if mental health issues are affecting an individual. But it should be handled sensitively as the employee might refuse to get checked out of the fear of losing their job. Thus, it’s important that the request comes in as a motivational element to better the employees’ performance.
Step 4: Addressing employees with suspected mental health issues
Whether requesting for a medical examination or expressing concern, here are few things an employer or HR must keep in mind:
- Meeting venue must be neutral and private.
- Outlining the definition of the performance or other issues.
- Including a support person in the meeting for better guidance.
- Prospective solutions to aid the employee with suspected issues.
- Implementation of a solution program through employee healthcare or other direct solutions.
- Parameters of how the issues be monitored, and for how long.
- Ensure that it is being done in good faith and the employee has nothing to fear from the activity if they put an effort to improve by co-operating to facilitate the solution.
Step 5: What’s next? Post-full disclosure of employee’s mental illness
Once the illness or syndrome is identified to be causing problems in workplace productivity, the employer should plan out ways to make it mentally easy for the employees to perform their duty. Here is what they can do:
- Research on how the activities of the management can be shifted to mental health-friendly environment.
- Ensure the colleagues and other staff are made aware of it and asked to deal with it sensitively.
- EAP or Employee Assistance Programs can be started to initiate multiple occurrences.
- Flexible working arrangements may be also placed for improvement.
- Train staff and colleagues about mental illness. One way to go about it can be through webinars around mental well-being. Onsurity’s employee healthcare plans include access to webinars to improve mental wellbeing. The membership also comes with discounts and offers on health check-ups and teleconsultations.
- Create a monitoring system for improvement or adjustment the employee’s needs.
- Remove de-stressors such as expectations of bringing their A-game every day or other elements that cause anxiety.
- It is also important to keep a policy in place to avoid discrimination of people based on mental health issues.
Whether a start-up or an enterprise or a small business, employees in all sectors have the right to access the best health and wellness facilities to take care of their physical and mental health. We hope that the steps brought you a closer to making your firm the one that respects mental health and have the measures to address them.