Mental health benefits: Beyond policy to practice

When we discuss workplace well-being, mental health emerges as a central and indispensable thread. A well-crafted mental health policy sets clear standards for employee support, destigmatising mental health issues, and ensuring that necessary resources are readily available. Through thoughtful implementation, a mental health policy transforms from a document into a living, breathing commitment, creating an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered, ultimately leading to a more productive, engaged, and mentally resilient workforce.

Articulating the importance of mental health in policy documents, though essential, is just on the surface of the matter; the real transformation transpires when these words translate into daily practices and employees begin reaping the benefits in their daily work life. As employers ourselves, we recognise that mental health benefits are not a one-time offering but a perpetual commitment from our end towards our employees and also, the whole organization.

Prioritizing the physical and emotional well-being of employees offers numerous benefits to both employees and the organization. It improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, fosters better team dynamics, increases employee satisfaction and enhances employee engagement. Organisations must invest in their employees’ holistic well-being through initiatives like counselling services, stress management workshops and annual health check-ups.

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Just like the policies, mental health extends beyond awareness campaigns; it necessitates fostering a culture where employees feel safe discussing their mental health without any fear of judgment or mockery of any sort. This can be done through some resounding steps coming from the top managements. Encouraging open conversations – both formal and informal, is pivotal to creating a culture of understanding. When the top leadership cultivates an atmosphere where mental health is perceived as integral to overall well-being and not just some management protocol which has to be implemented to check a box, employees are more likely to come forward seek help when needed.

In my experience, recognizing the signs of mental health struggle is paramount to incorporating mental health benefits in practice. For example, our comprehensive training programs have been especially designed to educate employees about mindfulness, physical fitness, impactful self-care practices, family wellness and more. Another initiative is arranging happiness bootcamps that are designed to help individuals enhance their overall happiness and well-being through a combination of positive psychology principles, practical exercises, and personal development techniques. Mood surveys can also contribute to improving mental health wellness by helping in early detection of issues, increasing self-awareness, tailoring support and providing a feedback loop.

Educating employees about mental health, its signs, and available support services breaks down barriers, nurturing a mentally healthy workforce. Knowledge transforms apprehension into acceptance, creating an environment where seeking help is viewed as a positive and proactive step.

Another fundamental pillar of ensuring holistic well-being of employees is empowering employees to lead balanced and fulfilling lives. Discouraging an ‘always-on’ culture is indispensable. Besides, encouraging employees to utilize their entitled leaves may seem a small step but it drives in great results. Motivating them to ‘switch off’ from work is the best gift an organization can extend to its employees. Employees who can rejuvenate outside of work, return more focused, productive, and mentally resilient.

We must also encourage internal support networks as we believe they are the soul of a mentally healthy workplace. Peer support groups or mentorship programs provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Knowing that colleagues are experiencing similar challenges and triumphs helps them be united. These networks create an assurance that employees have a ‘fall-back upon’ option in none other than their own colleagues.

When it comes to organisations, it is important to quantify the impact of their initiatives. Regular surveys and feedback sessions help and so does understanding what works and what doesn’t. This allows for continuous improvement, ensuring that mental health practices evolve in tandem with the organization’s needs.

Mental health benefits cease to be mere policies when they are integrated into the very soul of an organisation. Embedding mental health practices into daily operations and organizational culture transforms these policies into life-changing support systems. It is this transformation, from words to actions, that truly defines a mentally healthy workplace. Above all, an organization’s most valuable asset is its people. Investing in their mental well-being is not just a wise decision; it is an ethical imperative, a testament to an organisation’s commitment to its employees’ holistic health and a brighter, more resilient future.

The author is CHRO of Future Generali India Life Insurance Company Ltd. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect Firstpost’s views.

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