What is Mental Health?
Mental health refers to the psychological, social and emotional well-being of an individual. It can shape the way people feel, think and act, as well affecting how people make choices, relate to others and handle stress. Individuals that experience these issues have their mood, behaviour and thinking impacted negatively.
The three primary factors that cause mental distress are due to;
- Biology: Gene expressions and imbalances in brain chemistry
- Family: Many mental health issues are inherited
- Life events: Traumatic experiences in childhood, adolescence or adulthood
Why should an employee’s Mental Health matter?
Discussions about employee mental well being have gained prominence as a result of the pandemic. The challenges of remote working combined with the added stresses caused by global, local and personal uncertainty, economic woes, health concerns, lockdowns etc. has led to an increase in feelings of anxiety, stress and panic, and a general decline in mental wellbeing.
In truth, mental health issues exist outside of global pandemics but since individuals tend to hide these disorders, it is rarely discussed. Lingering stigma and limited understanding about the topic has many employees hesitant to broach the subject with their managers, and if they actually do, many managers are ill equipped to deal with it. As a result, this can damage an individual’s productivity at work, and if left alone completely, eventually their health and career.
How can HR help promote good Mental Health?
- Foster an organisational thinking where employees are viewed as people first and resources second.
- Create a culture of openness where employees feel they can discuss mental health concerns without retaliation, judgement or criticism.
- Acknowledge that mental health challenges are real and that any employee struggling with them should speak freely to their manager or to HR.
- Support managers to help support their team with mental health checks and challenges
- Encourage all employees to participate in physical fitness, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Organise team events, subsidise gym memberships, provide walking desks etc.
- Try to provide remote working support that promotes work life balance and prevents burnout. For example, switching off access to servers at the end of the workday, blackout on social exchange groups etc.
- Help managers improve their communication skills and teach them to incorporate wellness questions in their team meetings.
- Schedule one-on-one check-in slots with employees either by HR or by managers to discuss non-work matters and concerns arising from their personal lives
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