Mental health is integral to the optimal well-being of people and societies. Alongside neurological disorders, it forms a critical category of non-communicable diseases which affect people’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and relationships. Over the years, this has developed into a significant workplace concern, affecting millions of employees worldwide. A workplace, therefore, can help safeguard mental health, or it can contribute to worsening mental health. Annual appraisals and performance evaluation exercises are instances where organisations have reported a significant increase in mental health cases.
If these challenges remain unaddressed, they can have a significant impact on employees’ well-being, resulting in decreased productivity, absenteeism, and heightened turnover rates. This not only stunts individual career growth and lowers employee morale and satisfaction but also hampers organisational performance and profitability, fostering a negative work environment. The good news is that work-related mental health conditions are preventable. Various steps can be taken to support people with mental health conditions so that they can participate actively and equitably in work.
The following strategies can help foster a safe and healthy work environment:
The key to manager-colleague relationships Ideally, performance management should involve regular, everyday conversations throughout the year, between managers and their colleagues. Frequent, short conversations ensure that performance-related feedback is subtle and delivered when it’s due. Such sessions are good for mental health and create a culture of openness and support. They can seem so natural that one may not even associate them with performance evaluation. This method helps reduce anxiety and stress levels among colleagues significantly.
Here are some different types of everyday conversations managers can engage in with their colleagues:
Celebrating success – The ‘thank you for being brilliant’ conversation
Checking in – Short, friendly, and relaxed ‘how’s it going’ conversations
Building capability – The nurturing ‘I know some stuff that might help you’ conversation
Offering support – The ‘uh-oh, they’re having some trouble and need some help’ conversation
Honest conversation – The ‘it’s time for some developmental feedback’ conversation
Promoting well-being through assistance programmes
The focus should be on supporting colleagues to feel healthy and happy, both inside and out. The introduction of a Colleague Assistance Programme, managed by trained professional counsellors, can provide confidential support and counselling for colleagues and their families. Through these programmes, qualified professionals can assist employees in developing essential coping skills that are necessary to maintain emotional balance in their lives. They can help employees to make important decisions, tackle problems, and to explore new avenues for change and growth. They can also provide training to managers and supervisors to equip them to recognise and respond to mental health issues in the workplace. Such counselling can help employees to manage their stress, depression, addictions, and other mental health concerns.
Organisations must prioritise mental health by fostering supportive work environments, advocating for work-life balance, and providing access to mental health resources. Employees, on the other hand, must prioritise self-care and set healthy boundaries, and they must not hesitate to seek help when needed
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance
One of the primary causes of mental health challenges in the workplace is work-related stress. Factors such as excessive workloads, tight deadlines, and long working hours can create an overwhelming and intense environment. The constant pressure to meet targets or achieve unrealistic goals can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and burnout. Moreover, a lack of control over work tasks and a hostile work environment can exacerbate stress levels. A balanced work-life schedule is important for the overall well-being of individuals. Initiatives such as flexible work schedules, providing leave for special occasions, and encouraging colleagues to take time off can help foster a balance between personal and professional lives. Research suggests that a healthy work-life balance is strongly co-correlated with productivity and engagement among employees.
The Role of leadership
A supportive work environment is crucial for promoting mental well-being. Stigma surrounding mental health issues, a lack of awareness, and limited access to resources can create a hostile work environment. There is a pressing need to spread awareness not just among colleagues but also among managers about the role they play in creating a supportive work environment where everyone feels valued and can perform at their best.
Mental health challenges at the workplace are a pressing concern in today’s world. Addressing these challenges requires a proactive approach from both employers and employees. Organisations must prioritise mental health by fostering supportive work environments, advocating for work-life balance, and providing access to mental health resources. Employees, on the other hand, must prioritise self-care and set healthy boundaries, and they must not hesitate to seek help when needed. By collectively addressing mental health challenges, we can cultivate healthier, more productive, and inclusive work environments.
Abraham Cherian is Head of People at Tesco, Bengaluru and has over 25 years of diverse leadership experience. Presently, he focuses on fostering talent development, enhancing employee relations, and creating a success-driven environment at Tesco.
Year of Incorporation: 2004
Number of employees: 4500 colleagues (India)
Business line: Tesco in Bengaluru is a multi-disciplinary team serving our customers, communities, and planet a little better every day across markets. Our goal is to create a sustainable competitive advantage for Tesco by standardising processes, delivering cost savings, enabling agility through technology solutions, and empowering our colleagues to do even more for our customers.