When we celebrated World Mental Health Day 2021, it was important to acknowledge the workplace transformation that occurred over the past two years, thanks to the emphasis on employee mental well-being. With multiple companies providing some form of mental health assistance, there has been a positive shift towards accepting those with such concerns; slowly breaking the stigma around it. However, it is crucial to note that there is much to be achieved as people are still not comfortable talking openly about it.
The Workplace Shift
Empathy levels across industries and sectors began a steep climb with daily interactions being more compassionate and genuine. Almost every encounter with someone at work showcased real concern and interest in the other’s well-being. Empathetic leadership came into the spotlight with managers and business leaders further sensitizing their own teams on how to communicate gently. When work from home came into sudden effect, the need for companionship and real connections was felt fervently, paving the way for honest conversations.
Certain brands too scaled up their health and wellness initiatives to be more cognizant of their employees’ concerns. Godrej Properties Ltd (GPL) pulled down their shutters for 3 days to let employees emotionally recuperate, while early this May, Swiggy announced a 4-working day week for their employees, giving them the freedom to pick and choose whichever days they wanted to work. Some companies swiftly crafted a customised employee assistance program to offer holistic wellbeing services employees could avail. The implementation of such services determined the extent to which companies truly cared about their employees.
By making these services accessible, an open dialogue on mental health was initiated by management or HR teams, slowly breaking the taboo around it at the workplace. This top-down communication was instrumental in setting the foundation to people opening up about their emotions, struggles and illnesses; factors that impact productivity and performance.
The Power Of Words
One of the key outcomes of this shift was using the right words to communicate effectively and with warmth. “Thank you”, “How can I help you?”, “Are you taking enough care of yourself?”, “I appreciate you” – simple conversations like these regularly had a powerful impact on one’s behaviour and mental health. Employees and managers began being cautious and using the right words to express concern while creating a comfortable environment for the person to speak up if they wished to. These small acts of kindness and gratitude gradually made people more aware of their peers, unknowingly positivizing the work environment.
On the other end, callous usage of strong and insensitive words indirectly impacted the attrition rate to rise. Factors like poor co-worker ethics, narcissistic leadership and unbearably long working hours that strains one’s mental health prompted many Gen Zers to quit, as compared to other demographics. Losing out on this talent pool turned out to be a major blow for companies who did not pay enough attention towards improving their employee experience and work culture conditions.
What More Is Needed
While counselling support does improve one’s mental health, employees are looking for more sustainable initiatives that make the workplace more congenial. Employers needs to go beyond offering the latest on health and fitness through apps and other resources. What employees expect are continuous efforts that bring real change to the workplace. Activities through Express Arts Therapy, a new-age approach of free-flowing kinesthetic movement, reduces stress, promotes creativity and boosts relationships among peers. With hybrid working taking prominence, engaging employees through a series of Happiness Workshops is a great way of building team cohesion, resilience and mindfulness.
Knowing the true impact of how mental health has shaped the workplace, certain processes and functions too have evolved. While recruiting, a healthy workplace and a robust wellbeing program is becoming a deal breaker among Gen Zers. Employees too are basing their loyalty with companies who are dedicated towards maximizing their work environment. Tracking such behaviour has nudged many companies to invest in employee mental health support and ensuring an optimal work culture.
As an employer, are your initiatives enough to retain and attract talent efficiently?