The state of mental health in the workplace in India is an extension of the predominant outlook of our society towards mental health in general — it is overlooked or minimized. The workplace is an integral part of one’s adult life. It forms an important part of one’s identity, a way to pursue one’s passions, fulfil life demands, and make a meaningful contribution to society. However, the current state of affairs reflects an increase in mental health concerns among employees.
Corporations are increasingly adopting a culture, which holds merit in increasing productivity, creating a cohesive identity, and bringing structure and better governance to organizations. However, in various companies’, attempt to upgrade efficiency and become a global player, the individual within the organization is not given precedence. The individual’s job stress increases, leading to poor mental and physical health. The paradox of the situation cannot go unnoticed.
The culture that promotes productivity and cohesiveness, in turn achieves the opposite. Overwork, unrealistic deadlines, the pressure of procuring numbers, increased competition among co-workers, work place discrimination and unclear channels of communication are some of the deterrents to an individual’s optimum work performance. Job burnout, or the mental fatigue emerging from job stress, can lead to serious mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, increased use of alcohol and drugs, insomnia, and psychosomatic complaints. The result is a decrease in quality of life, diminished interest and lack of output at work and home.
The term 'work-life balance' has come to be a topic of contemporary interest, due to intensifying pressure of work. The proportion of our population working more than 48 hour-weeks has steadily increased over the years. Unfortunately, the scales have tipped in favour of work, and the imbalance has led to a deterioration in life outside of work. Today, the working individual has less time to spend with family, pursue hobbies and passions, and even give the body and mind the requisite amount of rest. We focus on all-round development in young children at school, but why do we stop at that age?
It is the onus of the company to create a well-rounded culture, and pay importance to every employee’s mental well-being. Some measures that can be taken to foster a fair and open environment, and reduce stress triggers include:
Facilitate open channels of communication between management and employees.
Put in place a fair protocol for conflict resolution.
Give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions.
Convey rights, responsibilities and procedures to every employee with clarity, and maintain consistency.
Create a balanced organizational structure to divide job roles and responsibilities evenly.
Design robust employee wellness programs which improve the work environment (psychosocial, organizational, economic), as well as increase personal empowerment and personal growth.
As individuals, it is important to be mindful of striking a balance between work and home, and pay attention to one’s own mind and body signals.
Take on a hobby or interest which is far removed from work.
Involve yourself in a physical activity 3-5 times a week.
Practice stress reduction techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga breathing exercises.
Make a conscious effort to compartmentalize work and home, and uphold the distinction.
Take well-timed breaks during the day, as well as the entire year, to put work fatigue at bay.
Find an outlet for your stress and emotions- this could involve talking to someone, or engaging in relaxing, creative activities.
One’s mental well-being is essential to the extent of one’s productivity at work. Therefore, it is the need of the hour is for every company to think along these lines, both for the company as well as the individual’s benefit.
Shachi Dalal is a psychologist and case coordinator at Mpower Centre, an initiative by the Aditya Birla Education Trust