HR Tips: The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

World Mental Health Day is celebrated every year on October 10th. This year, GreatDay HR PH aims to spread awareness about Mental Health by running a month-long social media campaign. Visit our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages to learn more and take part.

Mental Health has been a pressing topic now more than ever especially with the unprecedented effects brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. More importantly, this topic is top of mind for Filipinos these days. So much so that Chris Anderson, the Managing Editor for LinkedIn News in Asia believes that Mental Health has been talked about so much that it is now becoming cliché. This highlights the supreme importance of taking time to understand not just the context of every individual but the overall premise of the concept of Mental Health.

What is Mental Health?

According to the World Health Organization, “Mental Health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and contribute to his or her community.”

Mental Health, along with physical health and social well-being, is an essential aspect of a person’s overall health. It also includes our emotional and psychological well-being and affects how we feel, think, and act.

Establishing the importance and proper framework of Mental Health is important because this helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices according to our circumstances.

Mental Health Landscape in the Philippines

As a developing country that aims to thrive and survive the numerous difficulties brought about by the pandemic, most Filipinos tend to shift their mindset and focus on finding ways to get by. In truth, even before COVID-19 rattled the country, the Philippines “had already one of the highest rates of depression in Southeast Asia, affecting more than 3 million Filipinos.” This number went up to 7 million in 2017 and grew even more to 17 million in 2021 now with the pandemic in our midst, according to the Department of Health.

Mental Health in the Pandemic

This data about the state of Mental Health in the Philippines is further agreed upon by Harvard Business Review about how “business leaders are focused (and justifiably so) on the here and now of the COVID-19 pandemic” and the emerging fact of a “looming second-order mental health crisis that is now emerging because of the restrictive quarantines and shifts in work arrangements.”

This emerging Mental Health crisis is also further affirmed by the SWS polling body’s recent survey results wherein a record-high 91% of Filipinos express their daily worry of contracting COVID-19.

One recent intervention that the Philippines took in addressing the intricacies of Mental Health was in 2018 when President Duterte signed into law Republic Act (RA) 11036 also known as the “Mental Health Act,” that aims to establish a national mental health policy underscoring the basic rights of all Filipinos to mental health and providing enhanced access to mental health services and facilities.

Mental Health in the Workplace: No longer a nice-to-have but a necessity

Companies would be remiss to downplay and underestimate the importance of openly discussing Mental Health at work and ensuring inclusivity. As a matter of fact, there are several costly consequences of mental health malpractices in the workplace. Some of these include disengaged employees, poor productivity and performance, ineffective communication, inability to fully function, and inferior decision-making tendencies.

Ways to promote Mental Health and Wellness in the workplace

Now that we have clearly established the significance of promoting Mental Health and creating an inclusive environment, coming up with proactive policies that help each and every member of your organization daily in improving and maintaining great mental health is necessary. Here are 6 ways to promote Mental Health and Wellness in the workplace to improve overall well-being.

1. Reduce stigma and promote an accepting workplace

Stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or individual.” This dissociative thinking corrupts the fact that Mental Health problems are real, yet treatable conditions.

To prevent this stigma and unhealthy mindset, your workplace can come up with internal campaigns that talk about Mental Health. Webinars may be conducted to discuss several aspects concerning the issue and how your employees can work towards the goal of creating a more inclusive environment for everyone. More often than not, people’s perceptions regarding mental health are greatly influenced by what they hear about them.

GreatDay HR has the GreatDay Meet video conferencing feature which your business can use to hold webinars. It has both a web and a mobile app counterpart to ensure accessibility for your employees wherever they may be. GreatDay Meet has end-to-end encryption and has no limits in terms of usage and the number of people in a single meeting room.

2. Set aside Mental Health and Wellness days

Poor mental health that is further amplified by stress and the feeling of burnout, or even personal problems can have an adverse effect on the productivity of an employee at work. This is where employers can step up and initiate assigned workdays purely dedicated to mental health and wellness days. According to Aanchal Narang, a Mumbai-based psychologist, “mental health days are important because if you are not feeling well mentally, you won’t be able to concentrate on (even the most) basic tasks.”

She adds that the “idea is to make sure your employees are rested, taken care of and relaxed to prevent any mental illnesses that can be triggered by stress or burnout. Businesses should take into account that employees who are not feeling well mentally become less focused and barely productive. Employers may not see the effects immediately, but this contributes to incurred costs as a result of your employees not being able to do what they need.

Your assigned mental health days may not necessarily be days off all the time. Some workdays can be dedicated to having office or virtual activities that give your employees the opportunity to interact with each other and to speak up on their feelings and struggles. Similarly important is creating a space for employees who also don’t feel as comfortable opening up.

To tailor fit this initiative the best way possible, your organization can come up with surveys to get the pulse of what your employees need the most. Remember that each and every person is different and may have different coping mechanisms than others.

GreatDay HR has a Polling & Survey feature that enables organizations to conveniently and efficiently learn more about their employees by creating surveys that tackle different topics. The results of these surveys are presented to administrators in an intuitive manner so that the data derived from them can be put into beneficial use as soon as possible.

3. Encourage open communication

In relation to creating a more inclusive workplace for your employees, encouraging open communication not only between employee to employee but also between employee to manager/supervisor is very important.

For employee-employee: one way of doing this is to simply start asking “how are you?” more. This may be done randomly at any time of the day. The more that your colleague is caught of guard about this question, the better, because it allows them to really stop and think about how they are. You’d be surprised about how this question can lead to your work buddy opening up about how they really are. Remember, employ active listening and remove any judging mindset you may have.

For employee-manager/supervisor: as managers, you play a crucial role in supporting staff that experience distress and/or mental health problems. You are the bridge between the employer and your staff. As a manager, it is important to get to know your staff well and have a good understanding of what they are going through. You can then relay this information to management so you can come up with programs beneficial to your employees.

GreatDay HR has a Smart Feed and Internal Chat features which ultimately promote open communication within your organization. Your employees may freely post about how they are and what they are thinking about through the Smart Feed. They may also post motivational content in the feed. If you want to talk to someone more privately about how you feel, then you can use the Internal Chat function within the GreatDay HR app as well.

4. Invest in Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

An EAP is a work-based program that traditionally assists employees with personal or work-related problems that may be adversely affecting their job performance or overall well-being.

Although EAPs may require some form of investment from the company depending on the components, this is usually provided to employees at no extra cost. EAPs can assist with several issues like relationship problems, workplace stress, wellness matters, and a broad range of other issues.

An EAP is also very flexible because depending on the services you have in place, your employees may access them online, via phone, video/email, or face-to-face.

5. Train supervisors and managers about Mental Health

As mentioned earlier, managers and supervisors play a key role in managing Mental Health in the workplace. They are the bridge that connects their staff to upper management.

This highlights the importance of providing opportunities for managers to attend relevant training about supporting staff living with mental health issues so that they may be able to manage the overall well-being of their staff more appropriately and more compassionately.

A big step up that employers can do is to also recognize line managers who have personally lived through the experience of having mental health struggles because these individuals can be assets to your organization in terms of tackling said issues.

6. Implement Mental Health self-assessment tools

One cost-effective way of better dealing with mental health concerns in the workplace it to provide self-assessment tools available to all employees.

These tools do not necessarily provide any form of diagnosis but rather help explore if further professional assessment or resources would be beneficial to the employee.

A particular tool that companies may take advantage of is GreatDay HR’s Company Mood Feature. This feature in essence is a mood assessment tool where employees can simply select the mood that they are currently feeling and write more about it afterward. Since including this feature in GreatDay HR, a lot of our partner-clients have been finding this useful in getting to know more about the disposition of their employees. Implementing this feature also helps companies remain compliant with the requirements of the Philippine Mental Health Act under RA 11036.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Being more aware of the full range of employee mental health experiences is a big first step to promoting good mental health and wellness in the workplace. All employees benefit when companies come up with supportive programs in promoting good mental health for those who are currently going through something. By being more inclusive and accepting of this reality especially with the added worries brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies can become the ultimate leaders in destigmatizing mental health.

Happy World Mental Health Month!

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