The cut throat competition, rising ambitions and aspirations and increasing expectations have all become common place for almost every adult out there. There is nothing wrong in being ambitious. However, amidst this rat race to reach the top, health is increasingly taking a back seat. And even when we do give it a thought, only our physical health gets the attention. “Let me join a gym and I’ll be healthy again”. How often have you heard or said this line when someone says you look unhealthy. Well, seldom does the thoughts come to our mind, that mental health deserves its due attention too.
Did you know that 42.5 percent of employees in the Indian private sector are afflicted with general anxiety disorder or depression? Fortunately, India Inc, especially Startup India, understands the importance of mental health. Mental health not only has personal repercussions for the patient. It also has serious social and economic consequences for the community at large. Consequently, there has been significant attention being given to mental health and wellbeing in startups and other organizations today. If you are embarking on a journey to improving mental health in your organization, take a look at what you can do best-
Talk the Talk
To begin with, the stigma and prejudice around the whole idea of mental illness is what prevents people from addressing it as something normal and thus, not coming out. “I have a headache/ stomachache, I think I will see a doctor”. Isn’t that a common sentence that we all use at least once a week? Now consider this, “I think I am suffering from anxiety, I should consult a therapist or a psychiatrist”. Did your reaction change instantly? Well, the fact is that even today, mental health issues are a hush- hush topic, and those who come out in the open about them are shamed for them. In fact, 71% of Indians still use terminology associated with stigma and prejudice to describe mental illnesses.
Therefore, the first step to promoting mental health in your organization is to normalize the talk and create awareness. Until and unless your employees get accustomed to using such terms comfortably, you will be unable to achieve your goal. Encourage people to talk about how they feel and openly discuss any pressures or issues they may be facing. Once you get them to start talking, you’ve got the ball rolling!
Have a Policy in Place
While most startups steer away from having heavy policies in place, this might be one you would want to have. In case you feel that the terminology of a workplace mental health policy comes with too many strings attached, lose the term, hang on to the idea. The objective is to understand what are the general mental health issues that plague the sector that you work in. Additionally, identify how much visible are they in your organization. Your team members could be suffering from over pressure, or work monotony or something else. Identify the problem and then create a policy to deal with them.
Having the right policy involves not only talking to people at large. It is also about understanding the reasons behind employee turnover and absenteeism. These are subtle markers that may point to the direction as to what mental health hazards you’re functioning in. The objective of your policy should be clear “improving mental health at work”. It is important to not only have a policy in place, but to ensure its implementation and action towards creating some real impact.
Conduct Regular Trainings
Once you have your policy in place, it will definitely come along with some action around conducting regular trainings. Mental health training can take different forms. Right from having panel discussion with experts, talking about the importance of mental health to comprehensive sessions where some team members learn the art of listening. It is important to understand that increasingly, millennials report a higher incidence of mental health issues.
For starters, millennial Indians spend far more time at work than their counterparts in 25 other countries – 52 hours a week on average. Additionally, millennials today are more aware and vocal about their problems. They do not believe addressing their mental health is a matter of embarrassment. Therefore, if your organization deals with millennial employees, mental health training and sessions becomes all the more important. Be it through in house facilitators or external experts, the objective is to enable employees to become sensitive about what their peers may be going through and how to deal with them.
Provide the Right Benefits
‘Free food! Foosball tables! And what not!’ Well, these are some benefits that Startup India definitely talks about. Undoubtedly, these make a workplace attractive and at the same time softens the pressure. However, having some concrete benefits that directly impact one’s mental health will definitely add to your employer branding. For instance, at Recro, we offer numerous benefits along with these attractions that promote the mental health and wellbeing of our team members. Remote working, flexible timings, unlimited leave policy, etc. These are some among the wide range of benefits that add to our mental health initiatives.
Obviously, a one-size-fits-all approach is impossible to conceive for startup India. The least you can do is understand what are the benefits that augment the mental health of your team and ensure that they receive them.
Promote Emotional Quotient
“What is your IQ? How much did you score in your 12th grade? Which college are you from”? Aren’t these some questions you routinely ask or answer? Well, when was the last time you understood someone on their EQ or emotional quotient? In the race to boost our skills and aptitude, we tend to leave our attitude behind. And that’s where mental health goes for a toss. To promote mental health in your startup, promote emotional quotient. It will benefit you from two ends.
On the one hand, higher emotional quotient will encourage more and more team members to discuss their problems and share their concerns. On the other hand, it will also enable peers to accept those who are coming out. This is because emotional quotient boosts empathy. Therefore, promoting emotional quotient in your startup will ensure that everyone is aware about their feelings and sensitive about those of others.
Mental Health in your Startup
According to the WHO, India will suffer economic losses amounting to a staggering 1.03 trillion dollars from mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030. While you and us may not be able to reverse this economic loss, we can do our bit by promoting good mental health for those around us. Mentioned above are few practices that we believe have helped us promote health mental wellbeing. If you are just starting the mental health journey in your startup, they are worth a try!