The pandemic has had a pervasive and profound impact on mental health. For workers everywhere, the effects are insidious. Long periods of isolation, upended schedules, and a blurring of boundaries between work and home have put an immense strain on mental health, and they need better support.
Recognizing the need, organizations are stepping up - from time off to mental health initiatives and access to professional help. Some companies are conducting regular webinars while others are mandating a week’s break to ease stress. These are significant steps, and companies deserve due credit for acting on a need considered taboo in the relatively recent past. That said, the problem needs more. What happens when people return from a break?
How does someone handle a seemingly
endless dip in productivity? Is corporate culture structured to
facilitate better mental health?
Now, these are complex questions with no simple answers, but asking them can help. One aspect to explore is intention. There is more to mental health than productivity gains or business growth. The bottom line is that it cannot all be about the bottom line. Investing in the mental health of your people is an act of decency and responsibility as much as it is about business.
Uprooting stigma about mental illness and related interventions is as significant as prevention and management. Educating people about mental health and addiction, eliminating discrimination, and driving systemic change are some steps that could drive lasting change. Some insurance companies now cover psychological disorders, but many don’t. What message are we sending to those in distress when our systems don’t see their problems as being real enough?
We know from past epidemics that nearly a third of people who live through such experiences will have to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, or some other form of mental distress. Anguish can manifest in several ways and needs comprehensive interventions - nutrition, exercise, access to professionals, child care systems for staff, financial planning resources, and education - for effective management. While these changes would increase the cost of doing business, every responsible business has to make the investment. And not only because it is bound to pay off, but because it’s the humane thing to do.
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