Post pandemic workplace

Supporting Mental Health in a Post-Pandemic Workplace

In many workplaces around the world, there remains a stigma around mental health. Interwoven with culture and work ethics, the topic is more often than not taken lightly. However,the pandemic has shaken this perception even where it was held strongest. Now more than ever, organizations recognize the importance of having open conversations about mental health between employees, HR, and senior management. 

There is a growing awareness that a hostile working environment can lead to mental and physical health problems, increased reliance on medication, absenteeism, and lost productivity. 

Employers that promote mental health and support their staff suffering from mental disorders are highly likely to bring down absenteeism and increase productivity while benefiting from associated economic gains. 

According to a recent study led by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$ 1 trillion each year in lost productivity. On the flip side, it is recorded that for every 1 US$ put into scaled-up treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return of 4 US$  in improved health and productivity.

Globally, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, one of the leading causes of disability, with many of these people also suffering from varying symptoms of anxiety. A stressful work environment triggers six critical mental health disorders: depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and addictions. Work can be taxing on the employee in many ways, and increased workload is only one. Many smaller factors prove to be a risk to mental health. These can include workplace discrimination and harassment, poor communication and management practices, inflexible working hours but also personal issues such as managing a heavy workload, financial concerns. 

Having an increased understanding of employees with mental illness is essential for both economic and humanistic reasons. Empirical evidence has demonstrated that employees in stressful work conditions have lower retention rates, productivity, engagement with one’s work, communication with coworkers, and reduced physical capability and daily functioning.

Various workplace health promotion programs have proven to be successful, especially when they combine mental and physical health interventions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the workplace is an optimal setting to create a culture of health because:

  • Communication structures are already in place.
  • There are programs and policies that stem from one central team.
  • Social support networks are available for employees.
  • Employers can offer incentives to reinforce healthy behaviors within their staff.
  • Employers can use real-life data to track progress and measure the effects.

How can a company play a positive role in their employee’s mental health?

 There are several initiatives that can be easily included in company policy to improve the well-being of employees, such as: 

  • Making mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offering free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offering health insurance that accounts for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Providing free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Circulating materials, such as brochures, flyers, to all employees about the signs and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Hosting seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques. Offering options like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Creating and maintaining dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Providing managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members. 
  • Giving employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.
  • Providing resiliency training to reduce burnout and increase skills in empathy and compassion for staff members who are in caregiver roles. 
  • Monitoring the effect of supervisors on worker well-being significantly when supervisors change.
  • Normalizing discussion of mental health by having senior leadership share personal stories in video messages.

Combining professional and personal growth opportunities through goal-setting, one-on-one coaching, development sessions, and biannual retreats.

At Alpin, each employee is respected and supported, irrespective of their background or position at the company. We are opposed to all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination. In respecting and valuing the diversity among our employees and all business partners, managers, and employees are expected to ensure that there is a work environment free of all forms of discrimination and harassment. 

In addition to the changes in internal policy, the Alpin office too is reflective of our commitment to promoting a safe and healthy environment. Our headquarters in Masdar City is LEED Gold and receive the WELL Health-Safety Rating by the International WELL Building Institute and US Green Building Council. It is the first to receive this designation in the Middle East. 

Our employees benefit from a comfortable work environment with access to 100% natural lighting, 100% views to the outside for all offices, and fresh air quality that exceeds ASHRAE standards by 30%. All cleaning products used are environmentally friendly. We also extend close attention to our furniture, which is ergonomic, therefore comfortable for modern working conditions that require people to be at their desks. It is a small but effective change that allows our employees to maintain their fitness and vitality in the workplace.

The result of our Diversity and Inclusivity policy has resulted in a space where employees feel included. Highly engaged employees are more willing to go the extra mile for the organization. This higher engagement has had a positive effect on profitability, retention, and team morale. Employees that work in inclusive workplaces are also reported to have better physical and mental health. 

Additionally, Alpin has also invested in the Alpin Healthy initiative that includes preventive measures that maintain our employees in good health. Employees are encouraged to look after their wellbeing and seek guidance and coaching on health-related matters such as first aid, occupational health and safety, nutrition and better eating habits, quitting smoking, and many others. Safe and sanitary working conditions are maintained at all times, minimizing the potential for accidents.

What can an employee do to improve work culture?

Workplace mental health is not only reliant on senior staff but a responsibility of every employee. Advocating resources for a healthy company culture includes proactively creating a safe, supportive and sustainable environment. 

There are many small ways to promote the conversations and incentives around mental health that have proven to be successful. Creating a safe and positive space for conversations around the experiences and feelings of fellow employees by being empathetic and responsive can go a long way. This may include sharing any personal experiences that will help reduce stigma within the company culture. Encouraging your employers to adopt positive behaviors and promote stress management and mental health education among the team will also promote a positive shift in company culture. 

It mind sound obvious, but eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night goes a long way. Take the time to invest and nurture face-to-face social connections and reflect on positive experiences and express happiness and gratitude.

The massive societal shifts in recent years have changed many company cultures and employee perceptions around mental health. Even as employers have started to create a healthy space, employees’ expectations have rightfully grown. The future of mental health in the workplace demands existing company cultures to change and adapt to be more vulnerable, flexible, and sustainable in their ways of working. The pandemic has already altered the way we consider flexible working. However, there are still many alternatives to the rigid status quo of 9 to 6 working that can be explored to be more inclusive.