Dr.Shivani Salil

We spend the better part of our day and the best part of our lives at the workplace. But for most of us it is a job to be done and not something to be enjoyed. Imagine if you did what you loved, you literally would not have to work a day. There are so many who go through mid-life crisis which leads to some changing their tracks and the others succumbing to it. How often we applaud the entrepreneur turned farmer or a doctor turned bassist but never stop to think what made them do it. Had such people followed their passions in the first place, they would not have whiled away so many years and saved themselves from so much agony. That is where the change should originate if we want people to look forward to Monday mornings. Allow your children to follow their heart today so that tomorrow they may become happy and productive citizens. Though it is a sure fire step but it will take a while to percolate.

In today’s stressful world, employers tend to take the easy route and blame the cut throat competition for anything that is wrong with work place way. Most of them do insist upon some sort of a fitness report but that is only physical fitness. Mental health more often than not is just a box ticking exercise. It is so grossly overlooked that we have reached a stage where we do not acknowledge it even. But most of the long absences from work place are usually attributed to mental illnesses. The only thing worse than this would be low productivity presenteeism on a long term basis because of the poor mental health of the employee. So ignoring mental health doesn’t even make good business sense.

Stress, depression and anxiety are the most common ailments however bipolar disorders and schizophrenia are also precipitated in prone individuals. Substance abuse is so common but it is overlooked till the time it comes to be classified as addiction. They take a toll not only on the employee but on his family too, mentally, emotionally and financially too.

Mental well being of people at work enhances personal and organizational resilience that translates into success. Everyone has to do their bit, both in looking after their own mental health and creating a mentally healthy workplace. And it is not as difficult as it sounds. However it is a team work and both the employee and the employer need to work in tandem to create a conducive environment. So what can the employers do?

There is a concept of good and bad work places. Good workplaces have a culture that makes people look forward to coming to work, and everyone’s encouraged and supported. It doesn’t have to be a fancy place but it has to be clean and well lit. Unrealistic deadlines, poor communication and uncertainty contribute to the making of a bad work place. A lot of organizations are investing in recreation and gym equipment which does help in bonding.

Have flexible work and time options. Make realistic deadlines and impress upon the employees that they have to be met. Leave it to them to chart out the plan. Too much importance is put on being present on the job. It is the productivity and efficiency that matters and a 100% attendance is not a guarantee for that. If someone is made responsible they feel accountable.

Involve employees in decision making. If they contribute to the process they not only get a sense of ownership but somewhere the employer is getting a confident fall back team. Have regular meetings and communicate effectively. Keep the instructions lucid and be patient with queries. The employer needs to be approachable for the communication channels to be open and effective.

It’s only human to have favourites but at work place a policy of zero-tolerance approach to discrimination is essential, not only in theory but in practice as well. It’s a legal requirement anyway and protecting employees from discrimination encourages a diverse workforce and ensures that everyone gets a fair shot.

Introduce stress risk management procedures and have mindfulness programmes. There are qualified counselors for the job. A full time option isn’t feasible usually but have a professional who visits regularly. This helps raise awareness and creating an open culture to discuss mental health. What is required above all is, sensitivity in dealing with such situations, considering the stigma attached to it. People with mental health conditions need support. Help such employees to stay at or return to work. It makes them feel wanted and they are bound to repay it with their commitment.

The employer generally gets the employees he deserves
-J. Paul Getty

What can the employee do?.
Look after yourself. Our health is our responsibility. Blame shifting is a common tendency but it has never helped anyone even if it is the truth. We owe it to ourselves and our family. Be open about mental health issues. Support and communicate. Work towards team building. Be the colleague that you want others to be. Our vibe attracts our tribe. Find ways to de-stress. Remember that work is only a section of your life not the whole of it.

Happy employees are the biggest and the nest ambassadors of any organization. What Richard Branson says makes a lot of sense:

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.

Be a mental health champion!