It is time organisations prioritised mental health

Multiple studies have shown that disruptions in the workplace had a direct impact on employees’ mental and physical health
Last Updated 22 December 2020, 02:23 IST

The pandemic brought into focus one of the neglected areas of our culture — mental health in the workplace. Multiple studies have shown that disruptions in the workplace had a direct impact on employees’ mental and physical health. A recent survey by an HR firm in India found that 50% of their respondents were worried about their uncertain future, particularly their finances and career growth.

Other stress factors included isolation, relationship issues, losing their job, and their children’s education.

The reason for this anxiety was two-fold — a recessive economy and the isolation enforced by the lockdown. People were suddenly confronted with an increase in their workload and the blurring of boundaries between their personal and professional lives.

According to a Harvard study, the lockdown also disrupted workplace relationships that provided people with valuable emotional support, something that could have serious ramifications.

While many organisations began offering wellness and therapy sessions, the pandemic has highlighted the need for people to incorporate risk management strategies into their personal lives and develop strategies to ameliorate mental and physical health issues.

These strategies involve fostering self-awareness, self-reflection and increasing intrinsic motivation. They should ideally be undertaken at both the personal and organisational levels.

With an increasing awareness of the need for mental health policies, organisations will now have to come up with suitable employee benefit policies. At a personal level, one must work towards prioritising a healthier mental and physical well-being.

Self-awareness & self-reflection

On an individual level, a conscious effort to address mental health issues can help boost self-resilience and productivity. Denial, or the pretense of normalcy, can be counterproductive.

Hence, the first requirement of self-awareness is identifying and acknowledging a changing work environment. It is natural for people to feel overwhelmed when working under stress, but accepting this change is necessary when adopting self-adjustment strategies.

The pandemic also offers a unique opportunity for self-reflection and realisation of changed priorities and, instead of setting long-term goals at the outset, people should first focus on their immediate health requirements.

Intrinsic motivation

Change can only come from within. However, this is easier said than done, because it requires change in long-time habits and ingrained attitudes. One of the most effective self-motivating strategies is a change in perspective. This sounds simple enough, but actually requires conscious and constant effort. The first step is to move from ‘negatives’ to ‘positives’ — understanding what corrective action is needed, instead of dwelling on what is wrong.

The second step is to move from ‘have to’ goals, towards ‘want to’ outcomes. The desire to pursue a healthy lifestyle, rather than the necessity to do so, should drive the change. The latter focuses on a negative body image, while the former focuses on a positive life attitude, which is far more likely to succeed as a self-motivator.

The same principle applies when working with others. A collaborative and motivational approach is more likely to succeed than a high-stress environment.

Connecting with others

One of the biggest consequences of the pandemic is the isolation it has imposed on people.

However, modern technology provides multiple means of connecting with others. For people living on their own, it is imperative that they take the time to chat with someone at least once a day, whether a colleague or a family member. These relationships are important in maintaining emotional stability.

The one positive outcome of the lockdown has been that even people who had neglected their physical and mental wellness for years, were compelled to finally acknowledge the importance of focusing on it.

The pandemic should be regarded as a learning experience and a golden opportunity to self-reflect and enrich one’s lifestyle. It is vital to prioritise physical and mental robustness, to regain and maintain one’s balance between personal and work obligations.

(Published 21 December 2020, 20:00 IST)

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