BENGALURU | KOLKATA: It’s World Health Day on Sunday, April 7 — a day when the World Health Organisation stresses the importance of good health, of body and mind. And the message seems to be catching up faster than ever before, going by Corporate India’s focus on mental health of its employees.
At a time when disruption across industries, performance pressure, fear of job losses and personal problems are leading to increasing levels of anxiety, panic attacks and nervous breakdowns at the workplace, several companies, ranging from big firms such as Accenture and American Express to startups such as Oyo and JetSynthesys, are investing in improving the mental health of their people. The initiatives include sensitisation programmes for senior management, training of managers, workshops, campaigns, creating apps, launching anger-free zones, and even exploring art therapy, HR experts said.
“Earlier, this was just a tick mark so far as companies were concerned, and the focus was on physical health. In the last couple of years, the attention has shifted to mental health,” said Archana Bisht, director at 1to1help.net, an employee assistance programme (EAP) provider.
That is because stress has become one of the top concerns identified by Indian employers — according to 1to1help.net, 11% of all its counselling cases are at suicide risk.
According to a recent study by global advisory Willis Towers Watson, around 80% of organisations in the country took at least one action towards improving the mental health of their employees last year.
Accenture, for instance, conducts mental wellness workshops, and its entire leadership team, including senior MD Rekha Menon, attended the workshop. Last month, it launched an onsite counsellor support programme, whereby counsellors visit eight offices across five cities in the country on a fortnightly basis.
The global management consulting firm is also encouraging employees to sign up as mental wellness advocates, who support colleagues by directing them to get the right help when needed. More than 500 employees have signed up so far, said Rohit Thakur, lead of human resources at Accenture in India.
At Oyo Hotels and Homes, employees can sign up for an eight-week online behavioural therapy programme to help them cope with stress and improve their mental health, through interactive video-based learning. The programme is currently being rolled out across all geographies in India, said CHRO Dinesh R.
Others like American Express are actively driving more conversations about workplace mental health. The financial services firm has a happiness coach — a trained clinical psychologist who conducts group sessions on stress management and work-life balance. In January, the company also partnered with Thrive Global India to create a health and wellbeing portal specially curated for employees.
“We also run a counselling helpline for employees and their families, of which we’re seeing an 8% y-o-y rise in usage,” said Kabir Jhulka, CHRO at American Express India. “This is heartening because it shows more people are acknowledging they may have problems and trying to get the help they need.”
There’s much more that organisations are doing.
Diversified industrial manufacturer Ingersoll Rand offers confidential crisis intervention services, while digital media and entertainment firm JetSynthesys gifted employees the ThinkRight.Me app for New Year 2019, to help them with positive thinking. The organisation is also creating ‘anger-free’ zones within the office premises.
Technology consultants ThoughtWorks India is investigating the effectiveness of art therapy by conducting workshops in a few offices to gauge employees’ response, its people head Kaushik Ghosh told ET.
Cloud data service provider NetApp offers a mindfulness-based stress reduction programme to develop resilience and cater to employees’ emotional wellbeing. “Mental health is no longer a stigma,” said Manoj Sharma, director of HR at NetApp India. “Providing a great environment to have an open conversation about this and raising awareness can go a long way in encouraging employees to seek help when they need it.”
Bisht of 1to1help.net said the number of companies reaching out to her firm for EAP has increased 35% year on year.
Recently, after an employee passed away in a car accident during work hours, the employer immediately approached an EAP provider to seek help for others travelling in the same car. A counsellor conversant in the local dialect was brought in to speak to the driver and the others were counselled as well to cope with possible post-traumatic stress disorder, people in the know said.
Shetty of Willis Towers Watson said many companies are rolling out sessions on yoga and mindfulness. Besides recently launching its wellness portal, Infosys is in the process of digitising the health and wellness avenues, by making it accessible to employees as well as their families, anytime and anywhere, said Richard Lobo, EVP and Head – HR at the company.