As an HR professional in an executive search and recruitment industry, workplace well-being has a direct bearing on employees’ morale, quality of life and productivity. A recent WHO-led study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity.
The importance of mental health in the workplace and the economy is increasingly being recognised, so much so that workplace well-being was one of the three themes for leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. (The other two themes were technology disruption and climate change).
Stephen Irish, Regional Practice Head Healthcare & Life Sciences, RGF Executive Search Japan, illustrated this problem: “The number of people in Japan suffering some kind of mental illness is estimated to be approximately 4 million, with anxiety and depression accounting for the majority of these. Employees tend to burn out more quickly and are unable to re-enter the workforce, furthering the decline in the workforce in Japan due to the falling birthrate and aging population.”
He added: “It has been widely reported that Microsoft Japan recently released the results of an experiment which studied the implementation of a 4-day workweek and found that there was a significant increase in productivity, efficiency and cost reduction.
“Another large multinational pharmaceutical company implemented an ‘anytime, anywhere work culture’ whereby employees are required to log 3 hours of working time each day and they can work anytime and anywhere with a completely free-seating office environment (including the President). They have reported a 180% increase in productivity and 95% employee engagement. The company looks at the output as the key indicator and employees are measured by agreed objectives.”
INVEST IN PROGRAMMES TO PROMOTE MENTAL WELLNESS
The examples cited above show that creating a conducive work culture allows employees to thrive and make the most of their potential. Organisations would, therefore, do well to regard their employees as core assets and champion their well-being through strategic priorities such as these:
- Seek the support and involvement of stakeholders, senior leaders, and middle managers in the initiation of mental wellness programmes to ensure their successful implementation.
- Create a positive, fair and inclusive workplace culture to ensure workers experience their jobs in a meaningful and purposeful way. This could be achieved via various avenues, such as maintaining work-life balance practices to reduce stress and prevent burnout, giving employees autonomy and resources, providing counseling, coaching and mentoring, and designing activities to promote employee engagement and team cohesion, and build trust.
- Conduct regular staff surveys and other research to collate data about staff mental health, and use the findings to plan and deliver the appropriate policies and programmes to promote your staff’s mental health and well-being.
- Make evidence-based and holistic mental health promotion tools like mindfulness and exercise programmes available to all employees, and educate them about mental health resources that will aid them in avoiding burnout or mental breakdowns.
ADDRESS & SUPPORT ISSUES IMPACTING MENTAL HEALTH
- Employers can further commit to ensuring the mental well-being of their workers through mental health-friendly initiatives such as these within their organisation:
- Mitigate the stigma of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, by establishing a culture that values authenticity and openness, and fostering dialogue about mental health issues.
- Provide proactive assistance for staff with mental health disorders, including access to HR and, where necessary, occupational health services, as well as supporting these individuals in either continuing or returning to work.
- Put in place avenues for addressing discrimination, bullying or harassment issues pertaining to characteristics such as race, gender or nationality.
- Explore setting up peer support and mentoring programmes for staff facing mental health problems.
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RGF Executive Search Japan