If there is anything learnt the past year, it’s that one has to prepare for abrupt changes that come sweeping through with the turn of events. The nationwide shutdown, loss of invaluable lives, health deterioration, layoffs and financial crisis has all cumulated to intense strain on mental health. As per a recent study by WHO, depression has become the number one cause of disability worldwide. When it comes to mental health at the workplace, it is time to go the extra mile and be an agent of change. This is a crucial step to heal and help individuals as well as organisations in traumatic and uncertain times.
What it means to be an agent of change
“In times of change, learners inherit the Earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer, American Moral and Social Philosopher
While experts in the field are valuable in informing and guiding us, agents of change set an example and move us. They go a step beyond what is happening around them and can be torchbearers for a positive future ahead. This especially holds true in catastrophic times where individuals need the hope of a brighter tomorrow more than ever. As per the study ‘Mental health implications of COVID-19 pandemic and its response in India’ featured in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry, ‘The major mental health issues reported were stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, denial, anger and fear.’ Needless to say, all of this has trickled down in the workplace as well.
When the World Health Organisation (WHO) surveyed around 130 countries, regarding COVID 19 disrupting mental services, it was found that 93 percent of the countries underwent severe disruptions in their critical mental, neurological and substance use service delivery and there is a dire need for such services. Furthermore, 67 percent underwent a disturbance in psychotherapy and counselling services whereas 30 percent no longer had access to regular medications for mental and neurological disorders. There is already a huge setback and drastic steps need to be taken to come to a sense of normalcy.
How to be an agent of change in your organization
The study ‘Mental health implications of COVID-19 pandemic and its response in India’ concluded with the below points in healing and restoring the mental health of individuals. It noted, ‘Keeping a positive approach, developing vulnerable-group-specific need-based interventions with proper risk communication strategies and keeping at par with the evolving epidemiology of COVID-19 would be instrumental in guiding the planning and prioritization of mental health care resources to serve the most vulnerable.’ We break down how this can be applied to the organisation.
Starts with awareness
To be an agent of change, you first need to be aware of the changes that are happening around on a global crisis level and with individuals at the workplace. Today, there is a stronger empathy towards fellow mates and humanity as a whole as all have lived through or heard of similar experiences.
To begin with, you need to pick up on the signs of mental health concerns which include nervousness, depression, stress and inability to perform. Covid 19 is known to bring about severe anxiety attacks, disorientation, fear and dangerous issues that come in the way of day to day functioning. This can carry on long after one has recovered. The way of living is no longer the way it used to be. Loss of mobility and freedom to do things like before, be it at the personal or professional space has taken a toll on overall productivity. Recognising what your employees are undergoing is key to bring about any positive alteration.
Open the doors of communication
In a workplace environment, openly talking about mental health can seem intimidating or even out of line sometimes, but this is an ice that needs to be broken in a subtle and reassuring way. The employees should know that mental health is not a taboo subject and that this too can be addressed along with the health policies. Having a support group or assigned leaders would also help create a trustworthy and positive environment. As per the World Happiness Report of 2021, those with higher social and institutional trust were happier as compared with those who were in an untrustworthy environment.
Take the necessary steps
After having an understanding of what is going around, it is time to take action. Figure out ways of supporting your employee’s mental health needs. Update the mental health policies taking the current scenario if required. Bring about executive-level programs that equip managers to deal with sensitive situations. Weekly and monthly feedbacks carried out by HR can offer in a new insight into what your employees are going through. Motivational talks and exercises have been proved to boost the morale of individuals.
Offering counselling services
Offering counselling services is another powerful way to address, guide, assist and support your employees. While they might shy away from opening up with people within the organization, they would find a safer place with counsellors. This can be done at a group or an individual level if you feel someone specific needs help. Various sessions and programs can be held on a regular basis as well.
Just like the world around us has altered drastically, our approach and execution of mental health issues at the workplace need to be transformed accordingly. Being an agent of change will prepare you and your organization for the present and future.
Bouncbk is a mobile platform designed to help your employees measure and improve their emotional wellbeing. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more.