Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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Post Covid-19, mental health in workplace has become a key priority for both the employees and the management, as discussed in the previous instalment of this article.

Extending adequate mental health benefits to employees can offer great returns to companies. A 2018 study revealed that after getting treated for depression, 86% of employees said that their work performance had improved, and rates of absenteeism had dropped. Another article by Harvard Business Review highlighted that for every $1 spent for providing mental health care, returns $4 to the economy.

Here are six actions companies can take to make sure that the mental health benefits they deploy in the workplace, yield maximum return to their employees and the company itself, as suggested by a McKinsey article, drawing from the examples of renowned companies that have intensified their mental health benefits in recent years.

Measure behavioral health

It is very important for a company to know the mental state of its employees. A 2019 survey by Willis Towers Watson projected that the proportion of companies that measure employee stress level would rise from 16% to 53% by 2021. This clearly shows that about 47% firms are not even trying to gauge the employee mental health – that needs to change.

Secondly, employers must ensure that the right type of questionnaire is used to measure employees’ behavioral health. Using a general-health-questionnaire (widely used worldwide, since 1970) is recommended over incorporating ad hoc questions or idiosyncratic questions. This ensures the mental health status is reliably measured and can be used for comparison or benchmarking over time.

Prioritize behavioral health and make it transparent

Awareness and action on mental health must be driven by company leaders. They must actively destigmatize mental ailments by talking openly about it and encouraging people to access the mental health support and care provided by the company. At EY, they launched a program “WeCare” urging employees to seek assistance for mental issues.

Vivek Bapat, who leads the mental health initiatives at SAP, said they have a virtual team of representatives spread across the to company to keep a tab on the mental health of all the employees. The top management of the company must uphold mental wellbeing of the employees as a purpose of the company and walk the talk.

BlackRock’s former diversity and inclusion head Jonathan McBride suggests a three-pronged approach – educate people through data-backed awareness, enable the topic by talking about overcoming mental health challenges and encourage people to be empathetic towards colleagues.

Make leaders accountable for mental health progress of employees

There are markers for measuring the achievements of employees on the work front, where leaders are responsible and accountable. Mental health should be treated as one of the markers of achievement. If teams are given a framework to form their own mental wellbeing goals and the progress is measured periodically, mental health will automatically receive the deserved attention on the company agenda.

Explore and employ several new services

In the several historic changes enabled by the Covid-19 pandemic, Telemedicine or virtual healthcare is a significant one. Companies can leverage this trend and employ a bunch of services that are available on online platforms to provide mental health care to its people.

Collaborate with insurance companies to offer behavioral health coverage

In US, employers are primarily responsible for people’s insurance coverage. Although in developing nations, such absolute accountability is lacking, employers are somehow enabling insurance coverage of employees. Companies are thus in a unique position to encourage insurance firms to include adequate mental health coverage – making it more accessible to employees.

Consider on-premise mental health services

In US, a study projected that about one-third of the firms with employee strength of over 5000 are planning to offer onsite counselling for employees in 2020. Having a behavioral caregiver, counsellor or doctor inside the office premise, makes their service more accessible and less expensive. It offers employees timely access to the required service and saves commute time. Companies providing such a service will thus end up enhancing employee outcomes and eventually company performance.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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