Axis Securities’ in-house first-line responders to drive mental wellness agenda

The Company has decided to track the stress levels of employees, periodically, throughout the year

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Axis Securities — a part of the Axis Bank Group — has taken some significant steps to address the mental-wellness concerns amongst employees. Soonu Wadewala, head – HR, Axis Securities, shares with HRKatha that this year the Company did an internal pulse check on employees, to measure their stress levels and happiness quotient.

The exercise revealed that while the happiness quotient in employees was relatively high, the stress levels in the workforce were also rather high.

As per Wadewala, this was a matter of concern for the management, and it was decided that significant steps will have to be taken to address the high stress levels amongst employees.

To begin with, the Company has launched an internal campaign called #Mbrace, where the letter ‘M’ stands for mental wellness, reflecting the Company’s preparation to fight this challenge.

The most common approach amongst companies is to tie up with an external vendor and launch an employee assistance programme (EAP) where an assistance number is given to the employees to seek an expert’s help whenever required.

Axis Securities, however, decided to adopt a different approach. The Company is training its in-house HR teams to be the first-line responders to serve as the first point of contact for employees going through mental-health issues.

“As of now, 50 per cent of our HR team is getting trained to be first-line responders to assist employees going through mental wellness scenarios,” shares Wadewala.

In the first phase, the HRBPs and regional HR heads are being trained, as they are the ones who are constantly in touch with the employees.

Merely running an EAP programme on the side without any monitoring and checks will not serve the purpose. It is essential to have in-house first-line responders so that there is face to the much-needed interaction to make employees more comfortable.

“Having someone internally as the first-point of contact in such cases, ensures trust and provides confidence to the employees to come forward and openly discuss their problems,” points out Wadewala.

“As of now, 50 per cent of our HR team is getting trained to be first-line responders to assist employees going through mental wellness scenarios”

Soonu Wadewala, head – HR, Axis Securities

As we are all aware, discussing mental health is still a taboo in Indian society. Employees do not feel comfortable discussing their mental-health problems with everyone.

“With HR being seen as a neutral function seen by everyone, employees look up to the HR teams for justice. Therefore, a first line of responders from the HR team itself builds more trust in employees.”

Axis Securities is training its HR teams to be more sensitive towards employees. As per Wadewala, the first-line responders are not supposed to play therapists. Instead, they are expected to understand the subject of mental wellness and have the relevant knowledge or information to offer guidance to the employees in such situations.

It is essential for these first-line responders to be aware of the symptoms exhibited in an employee dealing with a mental-wellness challenge and be able to guide the person accordingly, and hand over the case to an expert if required.

The Company plans to extend this programme to involve managers and other leaders in the company, so that employees can reach out to the closest set of people they interact with regularly, who can guide them in such cases.

An employee pod or a separate corner has been built at the office head quarters which can be used by employees when they are stressed out. This employee pod, which is sufficiently equipped with motivational quotes, offers music and even vent-out boards so that employees can de-stress themselves. “Employees can opt for the relaxation of their choice in this employee pod,” explains Wadewala.

Axis Securities wants to constantly track the pulse of employees in real time, and is working in this direction so that the stress level of the employees can be tracked periodically, throughout the year.

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