Why com­pa­nies must fo­cus on men­tal well­be­ing TANYA DHARAMSHI

Tanya Dharamshi high­lights why the men­tal well­be­ing of em­ploy­ees should be a fo­cus for com­pa­nies all year round

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS -

As a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist at Pri­ory’s Dubai Well­be­ing Cen­tre, I treat many Dubai work­ers suf­fer­ing from men­tal health prob­lems such as de­pres­sion, stress and anx­i­ety.

Many work­ers in this re­gion come from over­seas and mi­gra­tion in­volves chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with the new en­vi­ron­ment of the host coun­try. Liv­ing in a dif­fer­ent coun­try has many ad­van­tages, but the lack of so­cial sup­port; change in en­vi­ron­ment; cus­toms and weather can all con­sti­tute a psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal chal­lenge to the ex­pa­tri­ate. Fac­tors that are shown to in­crease such prob­lems are work anx­i­eties; wor­ries about things back home, dif­fi­culty ad­just­ing to the new cul­ture and fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

Signs and symp­toms to look out for in staff

Al­though some peo­ple can hide their suf­fer­ing or think they have ev­ery­thing un­der con­trol, there are ob­vi­ous signs that can re­veal in­ner an­guish. Th­ese in­clude: loss of con­fi­dence, loss of ap­petite, ir­ri­tabil­ity and emo­tional out­bursts, sad­ness, per­sis­tent phys­i­cal ail­ments such as headaches, fre­quent in­fec­tions, fa­tigue, sub­stance abuse such as smok­ing or drink­ing more, im­paired judge­ment, wor­ry­ing, re­cur­ring night­mares and ex­ces­sive com­plaints about col­leagues and/or man­age­ment. Th­ese should all be re­garded as a ‘cry’ for help.

The role of em­ploy­ers

Em­ploy­ers should show their em­ploy­ees that they un­der­stand the im­pact of men­tal ill health in the work­place and cre­ate a cul­ture that pro­motes men­tal well­be­ing. A healthy work­place is not one that is ‘ laid back’ or stress free but one in which the im­por­tance of man­ag­ing stress is recog­nised, and em­ploy­ees are sup­ported.

It’s vi­tal that em­ploy­ers un­der­stand the po­ten­tial im­pact of men­tal ill­ness on their or­gan­i­sa­tions. Around one in five peo­ple seek help for de­pres­sion and there are not only im­por­tant hu­mane rea­sons but also fi­nan­cial rea­sons for busi­nesses to ad­dress it.

An ap­pro­pri­ate level of knowl­edge of men­tal ill­ness and the prin­ci­ples of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is a cru­cial start­ing point. If you are off sick with men­tal ill health you may be strug­gling with shame and be anx­ious about how your col­leagues and the or­gan­i­sa­tion will re­act to you on your re­turn. Hav­ing an em­pathic man­ager on the other end of the phone when you are hav­ing your ‘ check in’, or plan­ning your re­turn, can make a real dif­fer­ence and may ex­pe­dite a suc­cess­ful re­turn.

Em­ploy­ers also need to ed­u­cate their work­force on men­tal well­be­ing and the early recog­ni­tion of men­tal ill­ness. In­vest­ment in stress man­age­ment work­shops is a real must.

How em­ploy­ees can im­prove their men­tal well­be­ing

The buck does not stop with the em­ployer. There are ways and means for staff to con­front their men­tal health is­sues and make a real dif­fer­ence too.

A work-life bal­ance helps us to cush­ion stress with plea­sur­able ac­tiv­i­ties, hob­bies and qual­ity time with fam­ily and friends. Talk­ing about your prob­lems with peo­ple you trust is a proven so­lu­tion, while reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, get­ting a good night’s sleep and eat­ing a nu­tri­tious diet can all make a dra­matic dif­fer­ence to how we feel.

In the of­fice, learn to say ‘ no’ and fight the guilt that might come with it. Ac­cept that there will al­ways be one more email, one more mes­sage. The list will never end so learn to pri­ori­tise. En­gage in open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and keep a happy and friendly at­ti­tude – it goes a long way in a work en­vi­ron­ment.

Re­mov­ing the stigma

Com­pa­nies need to be proac­tive in ad­dress­ing the stigma as­so­ci­ated with men­tal ill­ness. Make sure men­tal health is in­cluded in work­place ac­tiv­i­ties and health aware­ness days. Demon­strate to em­ploy­ees that in­di­vid­u­als who have been off with men­tal ill­ness can be suc­cess­fully re­ha­bil­i­tated through phased re­turns and rea­son­able ad­just­ments of du­ties, just as would hap­pen af­ter a phys­i­cal ill­ness.

Men­tal ill­ness is one of the big­gest health con­cerns of our time, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple of work­ing age, and the good news is that many com­pa­nies have made con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments to their at­ti­tudes on men­tal health over the last five years.

Many or­gan­i­sa­tions have come to the pri­ory for ad­vice – some­times driven by the im­pact on the bot­tom line rather than mere al­tru­ism, but ei­ther way, it is a win-win sit­u­a­tion. An or­gan­i­sa­tion that looks af­ter the men­tal health of its em­ploy­ees will thrive. Those that are toxic en­vi­ron­ments will lose both pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­its. Tanya Dharamshi

is ther­apy ser­vices man­ager at the Pri­ory Well­be­ing Cen­tre in Dubai Health­care City


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