Dr. P. K Manglik graduated from King George Medical University in 1988 and is a former Director of one of India’s biggest Mental Hospital – Bareilly Mental Hospital. He has been a research officer at Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow and at Bhopal Gas Tragedy project. Besides he is a Life Member of Indian Epilepsy Association, Indian Association of Private Psychiatrist, Royal Society of Health (UK).
COVID-19 has proved to be an inflexion point for the ‘future of work.’ The paradigm shift towards work from home has sparked off concerns about the mental well-being of employees. A LinkedIn survey has highlighted that 39 percent of professionals reported an increased incidence of stress and anxiety during the lockdown. People-centric companies are now leaving no stone unturned to ensure the well-being of their workforce while keeping them motivated to ensure favourable business outcomes. The pandemic has also reaffirmed the significance of mental well-being as intrinsic to organisational values, employee experience, policies and benefits; it can’t be a piecemeal initiative. Prioritising the mental well-being of employees leads to happy workplaces with improved productivity, higher employee satisfaction and retention. While it may be challenging to make a beginning, the top leadership and HR professionals can take some measures to ensure the mental well-being of employees-
Open-door communication policy– Communication is a two-way street. Companies must strive to foster an ecosystem wherein employees do not feel intimidated to ‘speak up. A comprehensive feedback and review mechanism for managers and juniors alike, helps foster accountability and leads to higher employee satisfaction. The top leadership should be easily accessible to the employees. Moreover, boardroom meetings should encourage every employee to give honest suggestions and feedback.
Sensitise managers on the role of mental well-being– It is imperative to sensitise managers on the significance of the mental well-being of their junior colleagues. Adequate training must be provided to make them approachable to every junior colleague. A good manager should be like a mentor who understands the strengths and weaknesses of every employee and bring out his best potential. It is to be noted that the ‘one-size-fits-all approach won’t work here; each employee is different and may respond to crisis differently. While some people are resilient, others might need extra support to tackle the crisis.
Encourage work-life balance– Encouraging work-life balance is key to a healthy environment and a happy workplace. Measures such as flexible work hours, provision for recreational amenities, and mindfulness and yoga programs go a long way in helping employees cope with stress and anxiety.
Treat people fair: Treating people fair is often misunderstood as treating everyone equal. Every individual is unique, with a different emotional quotient. While some people may be assertive at the workplace, others might need an extra nudge to speak up and give their views and suggestions. Creative brainstorming sessions and meetings should be geared towards making all employees comfortable to give their suggestions. Assuming that all employees share common values and preferences may lead to the exclusion of some, triggering discontent and putting them at a higher risk of mental health issues.
Encourage information-sharing and free screening: Empower your employees by granting them access to education and resources from national organisations such as NIMHANS open resources, Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences and Institute of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, The Banyan and the Minds Foundation, etc. A free information library of FAQs, dos and don’ts, how-to guides can serve as a starting point to prioritising mental well-being at the workplace. Similarly, free and anonymous screenings and questionnaires for employees can help them tackle mental health issues early on. It is heartening to see that several companies have already taken the lead in this direction through measures such as counselling, free access to resources, etc.
Devise mental health policy at the workplace: Devising a comprehensive mental health policy is vital for encouraging mental health conversations at the workplace. Policies on anti-sexual harassment, bullying and mental illness, etc., will make a beginning to a happy workplace and lay down a framework for plugging gaps in mental wellness. The policy-making process should be democratic, considering the suggestions of every employee. Companies already having the mental health policy must review and update it from time to time to ensure it is in sync with the current needs.
Monitor Employee Engagement: Employee engagement is the best metric for a happy workplace. It fosters an ecosystem where each employee feels valued, respected and realises his worth to an organisation. Initiatives such as Fun Fridays, annual offsite, free gym subscription, indoor sports at the workplace keep employees motivated and engaged. The more motivated the employee is, the lesser the chances of his dissatisfaction. Investing in employee engagement creates a win-win situation for companies and employees alike, creates a healthy work environment and positions them as a sought-after employer.
Companies that prioritise employee well-being simultaneously reap benefits such as improved productivity, business outcomes, and a happy workplace, becoming a sought-after employer for the country’s brightest minds.