Prioritising employee mental health post-Covid: The key to a resilient workforce - Hindustan Times

Prioritising employee mental health post-Covid: The key to a resilient workforce

ByHindustan Times
Jul 25, 2023 11:33 AM IST

This article is authored by Ananya Raj Kakoti and Gunwant Singh, scholars of international relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

As the world emerges from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial for employers and paymasters to recognise the paramount importance of maintaining good mental health among their employees. The pandemic left no aspect of our lives untouched, and the toll it took on mental well-being cannot be underestimated. Now that we find ourselves on the path to normalcy, businesses have a unique opportunity to cultivate a resilient and thriving workforce by prioritising the mental health of their employees.

Prioritising mental health is important. (Unsplash)
Prioritising mental health is important. (Unsplash)

COVID-19 not only resulted in significant loss of life and disruptions to economies but also had profound effects on the mental health of individuals worldwide. Prolonged uncertainty, social isolation, fear, and anxiety have left lasting imprints on the minds of employees. Even as the world returns to normalcy, many continue to grapple with stress and psychological challenges stemming from the pandemic.

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The pandemic acted as a catalyst, intensifying pre-existing mental health issues and triggering new ones in individuals. The shift to remote work, though necessary, brought its own set of challenges. The burden of caregiving responsibilities, homeschooling, and managing household chores added to the emotional toll. Frontline workers witnessed immense suffering and risked their lives daily, leading to trauma and emotional exhaustion. Furthermore, the stigma surrounding mental health remains a barrier to seeking help. Employees fear judgement and repercussions, leading them to suffer in silence.

Employers play a vital role in supporting their workforce's well-being. By fostering a supportive work environment, promoting work-life balance, and providing access to mental health resources, employers can help alleviate the burden on employees. The pandemic has shown that investing in mental health is not only compassionate but also a strategic decision for organisations. Prioritising employee mental well-being leads to a more resilient, engaged, and productive workforce. By acknowledging the importance of mental health and providing the necessary support, employers can contribute positively to their employees' recovery and overall success.

A mentally healthy workforce is more engaged, productive, and resilient. Conversely, neglecting employees' mental well-being can lead to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, higher turnover rates, and a decline in workplace morale. Therefore, it is necessary to undertake some of the following steps such as -

1. Fostering a supportive work culture and creating a work environment that values mental health is the first step toward cultivating a resilient workforce. Employers must encourage open dialogue about mental health and destigmatise seeking help or taking mental health days. Training managers to recognise signs of distress and providing resources for support can make a significant difference.

2. The pandemic has also shown that flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible hours, can be both effective and beneficial for employees. Such arrangements empower employees to strike a healthier work-life balance and reduce the stress associated with rigid schedules. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance demonstrates a commitment to employees' well-being. Set clear boundaries for working hours and promote leisure activities, social connections, and self-care to help employees recharge and stay mentally fit.

3. Offering mental health training and workshops can be another way through which employers and organisations can help employees better understand and manage their own mental well-being, as well as support their colleagues in times of need. Knowledge about mental health can help reduce stigma and create a more empathetic work environment.

4. Identifying and addressing workplace stressors that contribute to employee burnout and anxiety can be another significant step toward the mental well-being of the workforce. Regularly assess workloads, set realistic goals, and encourage open communication to prevent overwhelming employees with undue pressure. Through employee surveys and feedback mechanisms such as conducting regular employee surveys to gauge their satisfaction and mental well-being. Also by providing anonymous channels for employees to express concerns and feedback related to mental health support and initiatives. The feedback received must be acted upon proactively to continuously improve and adapt mental health programmes.

5. Collaborating with mental health experts and organisations to gain insights into best practises and evidence-based strategies for supporting employee mental health can be a productive step as partnering with experts can ensure that the initiatives implemented are effective and aligned with industry standards.

6. Allocation of adequate resources and budget to support mental health programmes and initiatives is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of best practises and evidence-based strategies. Employers should consider mental health as a long-term investment rather than a short-term cost, as the positive outcomes will contribute to the organisation's success and sustainability.

While implementing all of the aforementioned steps it should be kept in mind that inclusive and diverse mental health support is necessary. Employers must recognise that mental health challenges can vary across employees due to diverse backgrounds and experiences. Inclusive and culturally sensitive mental health support must be offered to cater to the needs of all employees, fostering a sense of belonging and understanding.

As the world rebounds from the challenges of COVID-19 and embraces a semblance of normalcy, employers and paymasters must not overlook the profound impact the pandemic has had on their employees' mental health. Prioritising mental well-being should be at the forefront of any organisation's strategy to build a resilient and thriving workforce. By fostering a supportive work culture, implementing flexible arrangements, providing resources like promoting work-life balance, offering mental health training, and reducing workplace stressors, businesses can take a proactive approach to safeguarding the mental health of their most valuable asset – their employees. Only by recognising and addressing the importance of mental health post-COVID can employers pave the way for a brighter and more productive future for both individuals and the organisations they serve.

This article is authored by Ananya Raj Kakoti and Gunwant Singh, scholars of international relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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