Mental health issues have in the last year taken an upward surge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interruption of the normal working processes and procedures coupled with the
unknown certainties of the disease in the workplace contribute significantly to the rise of these mental health and other related issues. Research by USA’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and other international health bodies indicate that the fear and anxiety about the pandemic and other strong emotions can be overwhelming and outrightly daunting, and workplace stress can lead to severe burnout. This presents People Managers with the single task of putting in fluid measures (tied to an adjusted overall People Strategy) to properly maintain a good mental health balance for both Top Management and the bottom line.
Employees usually would rather absorb whatever stress they are going through for the most part as opposed to confiding in a trusted colleague or a Supervisor because the discussion of mental issues is largely prohibited across the board or considered a TABOO. The society we live in on the other hand expects everyone to contain repressed feelings and never show vulnerability regardless of the extent of damage –You can tie this to the traditional ways of upbringing!
In fact, Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) of the USA found out that 68% of employees are concerned that discussing mental health issues with a manager could affect their JOB SECURITY (YES, it’s that alarming!). Tackling anything concerning mental health will start from demystifying the stigma around the subject matter. The saying that “NOT BEING NORMAL IS NORMAL” should be re-echoed into the ears of the general employee body – This will evidently whip up the confidence to openly talk about their fears and accept the needed timely help to manage the stress and its attendant depression. To effectively tackle employee mental issues, Line Managers must first make a conscious effort to proactively foster a healthy connection with their downlines and remove the stigma around mental health.
EMPLOYEES they say are an organization’s biggest ASSET and they sure do deserve the utmost attention and care especially during these TRAUMATIC and UNSETTLING times we find ourselves in. It is no secret that employees with a great state of mind tend to focus on more productive activities all things being equal. Managers need to invest in organisational-wide programs that seek to identify, address and treat employee burnout, anxiety and stress.
To draw the curtain down, employee mental health now more than ever has become an integral part of the board room discussion and is NO LONGER an insignificant part of any organization anymore. It should not be taken lightly especially as we collectively seek out more thriving and cost-effective ways of staying afloat in business. Line Managers need to show genuine empathy and be opened to ‘hear’ their downlines out as this is therapeutic and fulfilling. Once this gets ingrained in the culture of the organization, the positive ripple effect will show in the numbers recorded in the books.
Ahmed Habib Ibrahim