Should companies use psychological tests to assess employees’ mental health?

The mental health of employees has become a priority for most companies, but can they go a step further and conduct tests to assess what’s really going on in their heads?

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Source: Brian D'Cruz Hypno Plus

Mental health at the workplace has been a topic of debate and discussion for a long while now. Every now and then, we hear cases of extreme burnout and workplace stress wreaking havoc on the physical and mental health of employees.

It is true that the daily drudgery of office work coupled with the pressures of home life can weigh heavy on people in a way that can cause emotional and psychological crisis. If this crisis isn’t resolved on time, it can result in considerable damage to people’s mental health, which can then affect their physical health as well.

“I would recommend that psychometric testing should only be done at the arrival of an employee in the company, otherwise not and that too with the employee’s consent”

Anish Philip, chief human resources officer, Marlabs Inc.

To avoid this crisis, companies can hold psychological testing at regular intervals throughout the year, to access the mental health of their employees.

Psychological tests are usually administered by trained evaluators, who try to determine the different aspects of an individual’s personality and psyche. They can provide reasons for people’s behaviour and diagnoses for buried illnesses. But, contrary to what people think, Psychological tests aren’t conducted only to seek mental illnesses. They can be helpful in defining non-medical problems, like personality quirks, patterns in interpersonal relationships, and other sources that might be causing problems to people but don’t require medical attention.

However, conducting psychological assessments isn’t an easy task.

Time consuming: It takes time and resources and can only be carried out by professionals. A proper psychological assessment is an arduous and lengthy process, and the preparation of results takes even longer because it requires a lot of theoretical work.

Uncomfortable: It should also be noted that not everyone is comfortable with psychological evaluations and employees will either decline to take tests or agree for it halfheartedly, which could ruin the conclusions. Psychological testing can feel invasive and uneasy to some. Employees may feel as if the company is encroaching their mental space or trying to get inside their heads for different reasons, and fail to comply with the instructions altogether.

“It’s good for employees to have an option. They should have the right to agree or disagree to psychological testing”

Ravi Kumar, senior leader, people & culture, Roche Diabetes Care & Roche Information Solutions India

Biases: A psychological test may pose the problem of being biased against people from different cultures, education, socio-economic status, race etc. If people are forced to take psychological tests which include questions that don’t fit with their life experiences, they’re bound to flounder and give awkward answers that can be interpreted in the wrong manner later on.

Interpretation: The results for psychological tests are often open for interpretation, and might confuse people because they can’t be summed up in a few sentences that’d explain everything about a person. There is also the issue of incorrect interpretation of results which can do more harm than good to the person.

So what should be done in such cases? Are companies likely to just alienate their workers by making them take such tests, even when their intentions are right?

Anish Philip, chief human resources officer, Marlabs Inc., says, “companies shouldn’t evaluate their employees.” According to him, companies usually hold such assessments at the beginning of the employees’ arrival at work, during interviews, or when they’re looking for a certain role that particularly requires testing. Otherwise, he doesn’t recommend evaluations of this kind at all.

Ravi Kumar, senior leader, people & culture, Roche Diabetes Care & Roche Information Solutions India, says, “it’s good for employees to have an option. They should have the right to agree or disagree to psychological testing.”

This is an important thing to remember while any company is preparing to evaluate its employees. It should be up to the employees if they want to submit to the testing or not. At no cost should anybody be coerced or forced to reveal any personal details during the assessments.

Ideally, Kumar believes that companies shouldn’t get involved with employees to such an extent. Of course, they can still help employees if they’d like to meet a professional, and assist them in getting the diagnoses, but other than that, companies should maintain their distance.

Clearly, while companies care for the mental wellbeing of their employees, they also don’t want to encroach upon the personal boundaries of their employees.

During these times when relations between employers and workers have become more sensitive, and any mistake can be advertised to the world within seconds, it is better to practise caution while also looking after the workers. By creating an open and democratic workplace environment, where employees feel free to express themselves, keeping a check on how they’re doing by having light conversations and discussions every now and then can go a long way in promoting mental health at work.

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