Employee mental health: How concerned are we? — Rish Tandapany

NOVEMBER 6 — As the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt globally, employers are still struggling to meet the concerns of their employees. In Asia, for the most part, companies have done a fantastic job in facilitating Work From Home (WFH) arrangements. The logistical, technological, expense and privacy concerns all seem to have been largely well catered for. Accountability and monitoring have also ingrained their way into normal WFH practices. From the outside, it looks as though everything is in place to ensure the “new normal” succeeds. However, one big facet has been forgotten; the actual employees.

Employee engagement and happiness are two key drivers of success. At the onset of Covid-19, many companies offered mental health services or counselling to their staff as “quick-fixes” for the initial uncertainty and instability felt. However, many have simply forgotten to monitor or enquire about the prolonged mental health challenges staff still face. Employees are feeling unprecedented levels of anxiety, fear and stress. Companies in Asia, as well as globally, are still lacking the processes and policies designed to help employees in these times of crisis.

Private counselling, coaching and therapy rates have increased dramatically in the last six months. My own firm has seen a threefold increase in stress management services since May. Asians are in desperate need to a) voice out their concerns and b) confront new pandemic-related challenges. A key area of concern, based on the cases I’ve witnessed, are foreign workers separated from their families. The migrant worker faces a completely different set of challenges to the local — not worse just different. Whilst international travel has slowly started, there are still government rules in place staggering foreigners going in and out of many countries, Singapore being one prime example. This cannot be avoided. However, the fallout on employees, who have their travel rejected, can also be attenuated and their feelings appeased. This latter point is absolutely critical in showing employees their worth and equality in an organisation. 

Employers should be obligated to connect with each of their employees and understand the mental problems that could be inhibiting them from performing to the best of their abilities. Pivotal to this is the transition in mindset from Human Resources to Human Capital — no longer viewing staff in the traditional, finite sense of output but, instead, equating them to value and assets. They represent the capital of the company; intellectually and financially. Within a Human Capital environment, employers are more incentivised to obtain greater value from their staff and,  effectively, build the value of their assets. 

As companies prepare and finalise their 2021 plans and budgets, now is the time for open dialogue and constructive steps in aiding employees’ mental health concerns. It is time to ensure staff do not have more reasons to feel expendable, especially as the unemployment rate goes up around them. Support sessions, webinars and general manager “catch-ups” go a long way to reaching people and making them feel wanted. Covid-19 represents a tipping point in employee mental health. Going into 2021, employee well-being should be employers’ first, second and third concerns.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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