Burnout was already a major issue before COVID-19, but the pandemic has brought added pressures and exacerbated mental health conditions. It is a critical area of concern that workforce exhaustion and deteriorating mental health were not considered as top 10 risks in Asia, according to our Managing the People Side of Risk survey. Failure to identify and manage these risks will worsen the impact on employers – high employee turnover, absenteeism, low productivity and higher medical claims.
The blurring lines between work and personal life affects individuals of all ranks. 83% of respondents who participated in our Healthy Minds at Work survey said they need to work on rest days and holidays, whilst 72% indicated that work adversely affects personal and family activities. Interestingly, both factors become worse as workers move up the career ladder.
The lack of control over how, when and where work is done is also creating additional pressure for employees. Nearly all respondents indicated that they needed to attend to multiple issues at once and remain extremely focused at home. 64% felt that they were unable to adjust the pace and order of work activities and it affected when good breaks can be taken off work. More than half thought that they were asked to do unnecessary work and were given contradictory instructions.
Therefore, employers need to recognize that inclusive workplaces are critical for emotional well-being and understand the unique mental health needs of their workforce.
When formulating strategies to support mental health concerns, there are four key points to keep in mind:
- Use A Data-Driven Approach: A one-size-fits-all approach to mental health never works. Listen actively and pay attention to what your employees have to say. Conduct virtual or in-person focus groups, interviews or surveys to better understand specific needs of your workforce. Analyze trends using data from staff medical assessments, occupational health reports, health screenings and employee assistance programs. The insights can help you identify critical issues affecting your employees’ mental well-being and implement the most appropriate solutions.
- Reduce Stigma: Some employees may still feel nervous and uncomfortable about seeking help when it comes to mental health issues. Hence, it is important to consistently promote assistance programs and initiatives to destigmatize the topic of mental health. Training people managers is key to reducing stigma. Equip them with the skills to watch out for early warning signs and changes in behavior, mood, productivity or engagement. People managers are not expected to diagnose mental health conditions but they are in the best position to break down barriers within the organization to properly discuss mental health problems and support their employees. A well-structure communications strategy should complement these training programs.
- Digital is Not Everything: Advances in technology and digital tools make a wide range of resources readily available to employees across multiple platforms. However, it is important not to rely entirely on technology, as some employees may respond better to face-to-face support, for more complex mental health problems.
Access to mental health care is critical for a healthy and productive workforce. Employers can consider offering three main categories of mental health benefits:
- Prevention: using digital solutions that build skills in areas such as resilience and mindfulness, and promoting educational campaigns on behavioral health topics
- Access, treatment & coverage: implementing solutions such as colleague manager training, peer-to-peer support, professional training and upskilling, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), virtual care options or tools such as computerized CBT, sleep programs
- Support both at work and away from work: offering employees flexible working hours, sabbaticals, remote working and also financial well-being solutions
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