The Next Gen Employee Experience: An Investment In Mental Well-being 0

THE-NEXT-GEN-EMPLOYEE-EXPERIENCE
The impetus on mental health and well-being has grown exponentially amid the covid-19 crisis. With employee well-being becoming more mainstream, organizations are thinking more expansively about many elements that impact the health and happiness of their employees – well beyond physical and even mental and emotional health.

Mental and emotional health concerns have begun to lose the stigma and proactive mental health support is becoming more mainstream. This is not to say that stigma no longer exists. In 2020, more organizations and leaders opened up genuine dialogues on mental health.

Organizations have been thinking of Employee Health and Safety since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Workplace Wellness emerged in the 1980s when many major organizations were starting to focus on physical health and related health care costs. In 2010, Gallup published “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements” a book co-authored by Tom Rath and Jim Harter, which expanded the definition of wellness to encompass more holistic elements of well-being such as career, social, financial, and community. It wasn’t until the last several years, however, that more organizations began thinking more holistically about their programs and resources to address total employee well-being.

Trends in Employee Wellbeing

Work Makes People Sick

Experts like Jeffery Pfeffer, professor at Stanford University and author of the Book, “Dying for a Paycheck – How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance – and What Can We Do About It?” have reported that “The workplace is the single biggest source of stress, in America.” In the U.S. and U.K., more than 60% of workers cite a poor work-life balance and almost 40% of American workers believe they cannot achieve career success without negatively impacting their family life.

In 2017, 52% of Americans reported having unused vacation at the end of the year. U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive Council estimates that over half of the working days were lost due to illness between 2017 and 2018 as a result of work-related stress.

PwC estimated that Employee Absenteeism associated with mental health conditions costs Australian businesses $4.7 billion per year (2015). “Presenteeism,” a term coined to denote employees who are less productive in their jobs due to mental health conditions, is estimated to cost Australian businesses $61 billion per year. Based on these findings, Josh Bersin has commented that despite all the technologies and tools we have at work, we have created a workplace of overwhelmed employees.

Josh Bersin has commented that despite all the technologies and tools we have at work, we have created a workplace of overwhelmed employees. Click To Tweet

These pre-existing challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19. The pandemic has given impetus to the topic of well-being. It has brought significant focus on the topic of well-being both inside and across organizations around the world.

The corporate wellness market is now estimated to be around $61 billion, according to Grandview Research (February 2020). Grandview estimates this market growing at a CAGR of 6.9%. This category is exploding with new entrants and vendors who are looking to address a wide range of employee needs from physical fitness to mental health to financial care to fulfilment to better community connection at the workplace.

Leaders who are truly committed to building inclusive organizations and communities grasp the significance and value of creating a high trust environment. In such an environment, each person in the organization feels comfortable sharing more of who they truly are. The barriers limiting authentic human connection can finally come down. Each person’s potential can be realized.

In 2020, employee well-being became more mainstream and organizations are thinking more expansively about many elements that impact the health and happiness of their employees – well beyond physical and even mental and emotional health.

In Deloitte’s 2020, Human Capital Trends report, well-being was rated as the top-rated issue on C-Level Executives mind. Last year, organizations felt the accelerated need to address a myriad of health and well-being challenges that their people will continue to experience into 2021 and beyond. This part is dictated by an ever-evolving social contract, requiring organizations to pay more attention to the role they play in the lives of their employees – both inside and outside work.

Focus on Mental Health 

Mental Health, Psychological Wellbeing, and Emotional Resilience – whatever term we use, the need to tend to and take care of our inner lives has gotten a lot of attention recently. Organizations have realized that anxious, stressed out and mentally unwell workers are not engaged and productive. Also, they are expensive, mental health costs are now rising twice as fast as other expenses.

Also Read:  Psychometrics: The Science Of Measuring The Human Mind

In 2019, the World Health Organization labelled employee burnout a medical condition, noting that its cause is chronic workplace stress.“We all have a point at which stress can creep into negatively impacting our overall health and wellness “said Darcy Gruttadaro, Director of American Psychiatric Association Foundation’s Center of Workplace Mental Health.

The pandemic has only made the situation worse. A Mckinsey survey of approximately 1000 employers found that 90% reported that the Covid-19 crisis was affecting their behavioural health and often the productivity of their workforce. Gallup reported that almost half of US workers were concerned about one or more of four possible job setbacks – reduced hours, reduced benefits, layoff, and wage cuts.

The mental health crisis stemming from the pandemic is serious and will be with us for some time to come. Mental health and wellbeing have dropped a staggering 30-40% since the pandemic began (SHRM, 2020). Based on an analysis by Mckinsey (2020), the pandemic has resulted in a 50 percent increase in the prevalence of behavioural health conditions. A survey done by the Indian Psychiatric Society revealed that during lockdown 1.0 itself, there was an alarming 20 percent increase in mental health concerns.

How has Corporate India Responded to the Crisis?

There were organizations like MPower, founded by Neerja Birla – providing Mental Health Services, which have catered to the needs of various corporates. According to Khushboo Hoda, Lead Outreach and Collaborations MPower, “We are continuously evolving to meet the requirements and make mental wellness as accessible as possible. Given the manifold, so to say! During the last one year, we have successfully launched and implemented various interventions”. Some of the programs or activities which have been a part of the mental health interventions offered by MPower are – 1) Conducting Mental Health Awareness Sessions for Employees on topics like Dealing with Anxiety, Insomnia, Grief, Accepting the New Normal 2) 1to1 Consultation with MPower team of Psychologists and Counsellors & 24X7 Helpline 3) Sensitizing Leadership Team towards Mental Health Concerns at the workplace. These activities have not only been able to address the mental health concerns but also reduced the stigma associated with mental health.

Mental Health, Psychological Well-being, and Emotional Resilience – whatever term we use, the need to tend to and take care of our inner lives has gotten a lot of attention recently. Organizations have realized that anxious, stressed out and mentally unwell workers are not engaged and productive. Also, they are expensive, mental health costs are now rising twice as fast as other expenses.

National HRD Network (NHRD), a professional body committed to promoting the HRD movement, had launched ”Mind Matters Week” in October last year. Mind Matters is a movement spearheaded by the NHRDN in partnership with White Swan Foundation, a non-profit initiative, to spread awareness on mental well-being and enable great workplace practices to support it. The objective of Mind Matters is to make mental well-being a strategic priority in organizations by creating awareness and reducing stigma around mental well-being. 70+ companies across India have joined the movement to play their part in normalizing conversations around mental well-being.

Mental and emotional health concerns have begun to lose the stigma and proactive mental health support is becoming more mainstream. This is not to say that stigma no longer exists. In 2020, more organizations and leaders opened up genuine dialogues on mental health. This is a silver lining to the unfortunate realities brought about by increased stress, anxiety stemming from social isolation, financial insecurities, and increased workload.

Although these are some encouraging developments, the challenge is that the gap between recognizing the effects of rising mental health challenges and taking concrete, effective steps to do something for some organizations is quite wide. The challenges may be cultural— mental health issues are often taboo, intimate topics can be hard to discuss in the workplace. Or mental health can be seen as outside the mandate of what an employee should be addressing, it’s a part of an employee’s private life. But the reality is that the struggle to maintain a resilient, flexible, and healthy mind affects each and every one of us. It’s a part of being human.

Also Read:  Overcoming the Communication Challenge When Managing A Remote Workforce in India 

Investment in Employee Mental well-being as a Part of Employee Experience  

“72% of employees want employers to champion Mental Health and well-being.” – Josh Bersin 2020

While the mental health challenges we are facing are for all of us to see, there is a silver lining. The pandemic has democratized mental health because most of us now know what it is to struggle, resulting in a greater degree of empathy and understanding for those who suffer regularly. It was very encouraging to read a survey conducted by Deloitte on CEOs, where 98% say mental health and well-being will be a priority, even after the pandemic is over.

“72% of employees want employers to champion Mental Health and well-being. Click To Tweet

Mental health and well-being are now firmly on the agenda and awareness are high, but the time is now ripe for moving into action. The answer lies in becoming more intentional. The need to shift mindset and behaviour to develop inclusive leadership with an authentic focus on Employee Experience and Well-being has never been more powerful and more pressing. According to Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, “In the new world of work, sustainable leadership calls for leaders to abandon old visions of a superhuman person who is superb at everything, and to challenge old ways of leading and managing talent that perpetuate this myth. Instead, leaders need to be real, open, and committed to building trusting, psychologically safe communities and their organizations, connecting people instead of taking on the pressure to ‘know’.

Leaders who are truly committed to building inclusive organizations and communities grasp the significance and value of creating a high trust environment. In such an environment, each person in the organization feels comfortable sharing more of who they truly are. The barriers limiting authentic human connection can finally come down. Each person’s potential can be realized.

Organizations that have Inclusive Leadership and Psychological Safety at the heart of the way they work will significantly enhance employee well-Being and experience, thereby unlocking their full potential, leveraging the richness of inclusivity, and mobilising resources in the service of organizational goals. Building inclusive leadership and psychological safety in the new world starts with creating an environment of space, safety, and stimulus, and the individual and collective conditions for success that allow a deep trust to be built and change and growth to happen.

Prioritizing deep trust, where people have confidence and belief in others, as well as themselves, underpins human thriving and performance. While psychological safety, the belief that you will not be humiliated or punished for speaking up or making mistakes is essential to unlocking innovation and trust. Inclusion is much more than simply not being excluded. It’s being a valued voice and the extent to which people feel psychologically safe in being heard, which is significantly influenced by how they trust their environment.

Companies are beginning to realise what Jeffery Pfeffer wrote in his book, “Dying for a Paycheck”. Organizations can be a source of good in people’s lives or they can be a cause of illness and poor health. Progressive companies are now thinking differently about how to be the former and stave off the latter.

To conclude, experts, believe that access to mental health resources and attitudes towards mental health is poised to improve and much more needs to be done. It’s time to go beyond the short-term plaster and be bold, holistic, and inclusive. The evidence clearly demonstrates that effective wellbeing at work strategies encourage people to flourish and businesses to prosper.

While the topic of mental health has been gathering momentum in the corporates for the last few years, the pandemic and the mental health crisis has highlighted the need to take it to another level. If leaders have learnt anything from the disruption of the last 12 months, it is the importance of inclusion, trust, and psychological safety for the creation of sustainable performance.

As we bounce back from the challenging period, it is the health and well-being of our colleagues/employees that will ensure success. Here is to a healthy, productive, and purpose-driven workplace for everyone.

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Head of Talent and Leadership Development, Trent Limited Manavi Pathak is the head of Talent and Leadership Development at Trent Limited. She is a seasoned HR professional with over 18 years of experience in HR Consulting and Academics. Prior to this, she has worked with some big names in the industry namely, TATA Motors, Cipla, KPMG to name a few. Complementing her rich consulting experience in the field of Talent Management, she maintains a strong academic interest in this area. An alumna of XLRI Jamshedpur, she has done her PhD in Organisational Behaviour. Her specialities include - Talent Management, Psychometrics, Assessment, Leadership Development, Competency Mapping, Organisational Change, and Executive Coaching.

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