Employers should be considerate, take care of employees’ mental health

MENTAL health issues are expected to significantly contribute to declining productivity levels in 2021 and businesses that appropriately support employees’ mental health/wellness will likely be better and more productive, says one of three risk professionals.

According to data from International SOS Risk Outlook 2021, businesses in Malaysia should look to implement strategic investments in developing mental wellness programmes to address wider lifestyle issues such as good eating and sleeping habits, alcohol or substance abuse, fitness and even ergonomics.

“As of November 2020, the Health Ministry announced that there were over 37,000 calls were made to helplines during the pandemic, with 53.3% of them seeking emotional and psychological support. In the new business environment, the traditional understanding of Duty of Care has changed,” said International SOS managing director for Malaysia and Myanmar David Ng.

“It is crucial for Malaysian leaders and employers to recognise the responsibility they have in caring for the mental health of their employees,” he added.

Based on the report, businesses are advised to:

Take steps to check in with employees individually. It is important for businesses to treat every employee as an individual; different people will be responding to the stress brought on by the pandemic in different ways and it will be potentially causing a range of mental health issues for many employees.

Make sure people are aware of secure routes for reporting mental health issues. Strategies which look to engage with employees and directly ask them about how they’re doing should be accompanied by more subtle routes for people to gain help.

Often people may feel intimidated to discuss their mental health with the colleagues and manager they work with on a day-to-day basis, as they may have anxiety about the way they’re perceived.

To counter this issue, it is important that employees are able to discuss their mental health issues with people within a business away from their direct teams, preferably a HR manager or someone with mental wellness training.

  • Allow and encourage employees to take breaks. Taking periodical breaks in between work has been proven to help improve concentration and avoid procrastination, as well as providing a sense of achievement as tasks are completed.
  • Consider the information employees are receiving. Both a lack of information and poor-quality information has been shown to increase irrational thinking.

Checking in with employees on a personal level to make sure they are receiving information from legitimate sources is an important task for employers.

It can help employees form an understanding of the situation in the world which counters many of the negative conspiratorial narratives we’ve seen come about as a result of the pandemic.

  • Provide employees with helpful tools, encouraging personal responsibility. Ultimately businesses need to be focused on creating the conditions in which an individual employee is able to take responsibility for their mental wellbeing, finding the particular strategies which work for them.

This links fundamentally to the workplace culture businesses cultivate; a culture which promotes self-care and provides the tools for this can be invaluable for employees.

With many employees working from home encouraging personal responsibility regarding mental wellness becomes an even more important task, as organisations in the current set up simply have a lot less direct oversight on employees. – Feb 8, 2021

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