October, mental health month: time to focus on the well-being of our employees – ORH

Think for a moment, have you ever been in a company where you felt cared for physically and psychologically? Have you experienced wellness programs? Do you know measures to improve your psychological well-being? There are many who consider that taking care of their mental health is important.

6 out of 10 workers could be considering changing and leaving their current job, according to surveys carried out by employment portals such as Grupo Adecco and Infoempleo in this year 2022. The following question is timely, what is really happening in companies of Spain for its employees to consider these exits or job resignations?

The causes can be multiple and varied. Some could be related to issues and debates already known and raised by organizations years ago in forums and debates in the human resources sector, such as: attracting talent; motivation and career development. Others may be motivated by new and uncontrollable circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a sudden change in the company-employee relationship model since physical and mental health was seen to be in danger.

Preventing and intervening in the face of psychosocial risks is an obligation of the organizations that were abruptly compromised with the problems linked to these risks. The unpredictability of the virus made us aware of the danger and led us to question the priority values ​​in our lives, put us in alert mode and mechanisms of protection and fear were accentuated that primarily affected sectors related to public service, health and education.

In short, a host of current factors is leading to employee priorities beginning to change. Aspects related to reconciling work and family life, global health care (physical and mental), in addition to emotional stability for personal and professional development within the company, and the relevance and meaning of that for our life have what we do day by day in our work. And not everyone has lived it calmly, quite the opposite, uncertainty and danger has caused mental health problems to skyrocket.

The data speaks for itself and, according to the latest European health survey in Spain (INE, 2021), some form of depression may be affecting more than 2 million people of legal age, which corresponds to 5.4% of the population. population in our country and, of that total, for 230,000 people their symptoms would be serious. In similar terms, one can speak of anxiety disorders with less or greater severity and with higher prevalence rates in women (double) compared to men.

Coinciding with the fact that World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10, it may be a good opportunity for companies to implement measures related to this area. How to deal with these situations that affect the health of its members at an organizational level? Are companies mature to open this debate on mental health?

Companies with the largest number of employees and the highest income and influence can be a good indicator of the field of mental health.

According to the III Edition of the “IBEX 35 Observatory. Health, Wellbeing and Sustainability in IBEX 35 companies”, 70% have already carried out some project and intervention specifically on mental health for its employees.

This is good data since it can be gradually copied and similar measures can be developed in smaller companies.

Guidelines for the well-being and mental health care of employees

  • Company strategies for wellness and mental health. Define planned and temporary programs with specific actions on mental health, since 3 out of 4 IBEX 35 companies have specific programs for mental health care for their employees. Actions that are part of the broader concept of a healthy company and that encompasses mental health, physical health, nutrition, physical-sports activities, office design, promotion of social and family life, digital disconnection, healthy training and information, etc. The mental aspect must be taken care of, for example, improving work-family balance conditions, digital disconnection, defining roles, tasks and workloads well, training in stress management in situations of uncertainty, correct training in changing as the technological environment or by the economic performance itself that generates pressure in all levels of the company. Training in healthy work habits seems essential, together with training in psychological self-care measures.
  • Change behaviors to change the work environment and the disposition towards well-being. It is not necessary to be a large company or use large budgets to generate well-being; It can start with small actions and with a change in the perception of the subject, giving a voice to all the levels that make up the organization, opening the debate on mental health. SMEs themselves can develop projects without excessive cost in their budgets for this issue. If the worker perceives that he is cared for, listened to, given the floor in this aspect, his performance improves, his company’s perception and, therefore, his mental health. There may be an investment in programs, but there may also be behavioral changes that stimulate and facilitate psychological well-being. These behavioral changes respond to a strategy of seeking the well-being of the workers.
  • Change of perception of the Human Resources departments, organizational culture and work environment. One of the most radical changes in the organizational culture could be the step forward of the Human Resources departments and, aside from the basic functions, which can be understood as personnel management and labor relations, make room for others linked to caring for the employee and their mental health. The basics are covered in compliance with the Occupational Risk Prevention Law, but you can expand, propose and develop actions and conditions for better mental health of the members of your organization. The HR department as a nerve center for listening, caring, emotional validation and advice in this field.
  • Inclusion of psychological services in organizations. Linked to the previous point, the incorporation of mental health job profiles in HR departments. For example, the figure of the health psychologist in the workplace, who can give advice on basic aspects of mental health such as those related to stress, anxiety, depressive states, burnout, boring, workplace harassment, etc. Provide initial assistance and, where appropriate, refer or recommend other specialists. It can be accompanied by training, psychoeducation and/or coaching and even therapy to provide healthy tools to teams and departments according to their needs. Sometimes it is better to prevent than to have the problem clearly.
  • Management involvement and leadership training. A study (Amar, 2014) serves as a reference in which it was indicated that the development of mindfulness improves the leadership capacity of middle and higher positions, since emotional intelligence is developed and, in this way, improves the relationship with subordinates, their empathy and their assertiveness. In this way, upper and middle positions can transmit and share the corporate vision and make the organizational objectives converge with the individual ones of the employees. The transmission of the values ​​and objectives of the company is possible thanks to the improvement of communication skills such as active listening. In this case, it is a reflection of the internal communicative improvement that individuals experience, since they are more aware of the message and content and can express themselves more efficiently. As a result, mental health improves collectively in the organization.

As has been described, companies can (and should) take a leading and relevant role in the well-being of their workers.

Gone is the simple transaction of a salary for services rendered; the company must provide a plus in the well-being of its employees. The economic salary remained as a minimum incentive that requires the complement of the emotional salary…

The hard skills Training, qualifications and skills are presupposed when we carry out related staff hiring, but we must also pay attention to the no less important soft skills, in this case linked to mental health, for example, emotional intelligence, change management, uncertainty or stress.

The COVID pandemic changed the perception of our physical and mental health, we saw our own vulnerability face to face. A change is needed that will lead to the development and attention of these healthy aspects by companies. If not, in many cases, it can lead to the loss of talent and in more extreme cases even to their own disappearance. In addition, we cannot forget that prevention and intervention in the face of psychosocial risks is a legal obligation for companies.

Content written by the TherapyChat Clinical Content Team led by Isabel Aranda, a health psychologist and Chief Content Officer.

Photo by Total Shape on Unsplash

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