Timely provision of psychological help and support should become a corporate priority. This will protect employees from professional burnout
At a time when there is a labor shortage all over the world and employee retention is of paramount importance, the topic of mental health of employees is especially important. Recognizing the importance of mental health and taking decisive steps in that direction will not only help improve people’s well-being, but also increase company productivity.
The last two years have been critical. The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced trends that were apparent even before the virus began to spread. Supporting employees in dealing with psychological problems during the pandemic and in its aftermath has become almost the main intra-corporate concern of managers. By increasing the quality and availability of psychological help, companies have contributed to a real improvement in the performance of employees and, consequently, of companies as a whole.
Psychological problems affect economic performance. It is no coincidence that back in 2019 the WHO recognized professional burnout syndrome as a medical diagnosis caused by chronic stress in the workplace. In recent years, stress in business has grown by leaps and bounds. A McKinsey global survey this past November found that 62% of workers globally ranked mental stability as one of the top problems they faced during the pandemic. Nine out of ten companies admit that the covid crisis has had a detrimental effect on their employees’ mental health and productivity, and 96% of companies have strengthened their psychological support programs.
Employers are not paying enough attention to mental health. Another UK study found that only 22% of mid-level managers had received mental health training at work, although the potential benefits of even basic training in this area were expressed by 49% of respondents. And when respondents evaluated corporate benefits packages, psychological support was more important to people than financial management advice, fitness club memberships and free lunches.
There are five ways to make mental health support programs beneficial to a company and its employees.
Measuring mental health metrics. Companies are increasingly implementing systems to test employees’ psychological well-being. McKinsey recommends using a 12-question guide to identify the mental challenges people face in business – it has been translated into 38 languages and has been used successfully in many countries, including Spain, Germany and Australia. Reliable feedback with proven effectiveness will allow you to “keep your finger on the pulse” and enable companies to accurately track an organization’s mental health benchmarks.
Mental health is a corporate priority. Companies have a responsibility to educate and support mental health and protect staff from professional burnout. Approaches can vary. Some companies launch educational programs that include assistance from psychologists and psychoanalysts. Others, like SAP, create a permanent working group, which adopts and implements innovations in the sphere of mental comfort care – such group includes representatives of all company departments. Jonathan McBride, former head of business at BlackRock Investment Corporation, identifies three main areas on which it makes sense to emphasize efforts. These are educational programs about psychology in business, development of employees’ skills to overcome difficult mental states and, finally, a special campaign which BlackRock called Be Kind. This program, according to McBride, helps employees understand the inner world of people working together.
Responsibility for mental comfort rests with managers. Metrics that are measured and get management’s attention make them responsible. As a rule, the initiators of the implementation of approaches to mental support for staff are members of senior management, they also set an example for the rest. Director of Human Resources of one of the largest U.S. investment companies says that once the company’s management asked each unit to prepare development plans in the area of mental, emotional, physical and mental well-being, taking into account individual and team goals. The first 5,200 plans were received, and teams have been monitoring their implementation status regularly ever since. By having all managers, including the CEO, make these plans, mental health has earned its rightful place on the corporate agenda.
New features and services. More and more employers are taking on some or all of the cost of employee access to digital health support services. In line with the growth of telehealth options, numerous online applications are growing in popularity. For example, these are corporate subscriptions in mental health startup apps to address sleep and psychological balance issues.
Psychological assistance in the workplace. More and more large employers are giving employees access to health care at work. This includes psychological care. It’s convenient and beneficial: employees save money and don’t waste time commuting. The Business to Health community says that as early as 2020, one-third of all business organizations with more than 5,000 employees were offering in-service mental health counseling to their employees, compared to only 20 percent in 2018. In our practice, we see this trend, along with increasingly popular access to virtual health services, gaining momentum.
Contributing to mental health is contributing to business. The pandemic has accelerated a long overdue change that began to manifest before COVID-19. Increased business focus on employee health, including mental health, is one such change. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders in the global coffee shop market spends more on employee health insurance than it does on coffee purchases, and health care spending by three U.S. auto companies exceeds their spending on metal for car manufacturing. Actions taken by companies to maintain employee mental health promote business and leadership.
Applying the above five steps toward improving employee mental health can give Kazakhstani companies an advantage in adapting to the profound changes taking place in the world.