Gaurav is the Co-founder at DaMENSCH – a premium men’s essential wear company that is known to have brought innovation into men’s apparel category in India. Gaurav is an engineer from the prestigious IIT Delhi specializing in electronics and communication, a resident of the Kumaon Hostel he also is into dramatics and was actively involved with NSD. Gaurav confirms that the entrepreneurial bug bit him early in life coming from family business background, he kept trying his hands at different avenues from running a magazine in college to harnessing his knowledge of seller ecosystem in E-commerce as a side gig.
People don’t like travelling to work at the best of times.
And after 18+ months of isolation, lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic they still don’t like it. Studies suggest that globally, the majority of people prefer a mix of WFH and Work from Office scenarios in a week.
There was a world where we used to commute into an office five days a week. We’d haul ourselves onto traffic. That was the daily commute. We’d land in the office, probably wouldn’t wash hands, hug people, shake hands and get to work. We’d probably be in and out of meetings, maybe have half an hour where we could put our headphones in and get some tasks done. That was the standard Monday to Friday 9-5, or longer.
Depression among workers is at record high
Now though, everything has changed. We have had 18+ months working from home alongside our families, kids, parents on the dining room table. For over a year it has been about hustling in these times. We may go to a grocery shop, go walk around the park, work from home, go on a run, go on another walk, that’s it.
And we have all found it difficult; the lack of social connection and the lack of human contact. We felt quite anxious of COVID as things began to open up this year, before being locked down again. We have slowed down massively, We have had more time for self-care, we have had nothing to have to say “no” to, our lives have been slower and on the whole, and yet things have taken a toll on our health. Although mental health at the workplace has always been a cause for concern, since last year, these issues have been exacerbated. As per WHO estimates, 264 million people are prone to depression. Of these, many also suffer anxiety symptoms.
A recent WHO study estimated the global economy loses $1 trillion annually in lost productivity due to depression and anxiety disorders. In mental health problems, unemployment is an acknowledged risk factor. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 crisis has increased mental health ailments among millions due to job insecurities and losses.
Preventing burnouts in the workplace
Additionally, workplace environments and workloads contribute to greater mental health challenges – sometimes even adding on to pre-existing traumas and issues. Besides affecting the performance of people, it may lower their morale too. Stressful, frenetic, hostile and toxic workplaces can create an environment that then generates more cases of work-related stress.
Given this scenario, workplace stress and anxiety-related issues cannot be swept under the carpet. Ignoring mental health concerns may trigger employee burnout and higher attrition. Work-related anxiety can then impact employees and employers negatively through decreased performance and productivity, lower engagement levels, poor communication with peers and diminished capabilities.
Today, employers recognize that workplace anxiety and allied mental health issues have far-reaching implications on institutional performance and profits. Therefore, some companies have launched corporate wellness programmes and other initiatives to foster mental well-being. Such employee assistance programmes help staff cope with their personal or mental health problems. In stressful situations, employees are also allowed to take leave, providing a break from office stress.
Simultaneously, the help of mental well-being counsellors is facilitated for these workers. Counsellors can be contacted via video, phone, email, online or even in person.
Management and HR heads also try to foster a culture of empathy, understanding and openness to curb work-related stressors. HR programmes are designed to prevent employee burnout by building their resilience. Managers and supervisors also allow employees to speak freely and fearlessly about work-related issues. Such a change in a company’s culture can ascertain that mental health problems are addressed early on while preventing potential burnout cases.
Creating a Happy Workplace
In dealing with workplace mental health challenges, the focus must be on prevention. This can be achieved by holding mental wellness days when the staff are encouraged to speak about their apprehensions, personal or professional. A receptive office ambience makes staff feel empowered to act before they fall victim to burnout or other stress-related problems.
The freedom to take a step back and discuss mental well-being worries with peers can itself act as a great de-stressor, which is the first step to containing these problems. The very act of discussing such issues can help people let off steam – one of the best ways to destress.
Companies can also provide relaxation spaces where people can enjoy mid-day breaks to destress and unwind. Employees should be encouraged to use these quiet corners once a day at least, which must be part of the acceptable company culture rather than being frowned upon. Managers could lead by example, using these silent zones daily.
The benefits of proactivity and prevention when dealing with workplace mental health problems are undeniable. In-house therapists are an excellent way to encourage employees to seek help the moment they are assailed by office anxieties or stress that is difficult to handle.
One must understand that the robust mental well-being of employees puts them in a better frame of mind to cope with daily workplace stressors. Consequently, they are well-placed to reach their full potential. This increases productivity, helping people contribute more actively at the workplace, the home or the societal level. In our current lifestyles, one cannot overlook the fact that, together with physical and social well-being, mental health is a vital element in the overall health of people.
As a result, spending money on employees’ mental well-being cannot be counted as an expense. Instead, it’s an investment in the well-being of both employees and employers, providing short-term and long-term dividends.