Over a third of employees in Asia have admitted that it is becoming challenging for them to focus on work. Compared to 2022, almost 50 per cent of Asian employees admit to feeling mental and physical exhaustion by the end of their work hours. Over 50 per cent have felt more stressed in the last one year. It is worrisome that 45 per cent employees in Asia admit that their productivity has been adversely affected because of their mental health.
What is more worrisome is the fact that 54 per cent Asian workers would be concerned that their career options will be limited if their employer came to know of their mental health issue. That means, most of those suffering will prefer not to talk about it lest their employers come to know!
According to the Asia Mental Health Index report by Aon, it is time for leaders to seriously consider the effect of mental health issues can have on not just productivity but on the individuals themselves.
As per data from the World Health Organisation, about 12 billion working days are lost annually, worldwide, owing to depression and anxiety. That means, the annual loss of productivity costs about US$ 1 trillion. This also means that interventions that are in place, if at all, are not enough. As these issues grow, the healthcare costs will rise, frequency and costs of insurance claims will go up, and of course there will be more employee turnover. With absenteeism on the rise, productivity will dip.
Why aren’t employees seeking help?
The survey discovered that 54 per cent employees in Asia would be concerned about their career options being limited if their employer became aware that they had a mental health issue. That is not a good sign at all. This indicates that employees would prefer not talking about their mental health issues.
There is stigma attached to discussing mental-health issues, and this is stopping employees from seeking help for these issues. About 50 per cent said they fear negative ‘self-stigma’ from their mental-health issues. That means, poor mental health can definitely have an adverse effect on self-esteem.
What can be done?
Managers should be trained to spot any signs of anguish or misery amongst the team members. They should be able to not just understand the causes of poor mental health, but also be able to address those factors. Employees could be distressed and anxious about the rising cost of living, or they may be going through a financial crisis, or they may be finding the workload killing. Even a toxic work culture and unsuitable job role could lead to distress. Relationship issues and the challenges of parenting may also be factors that can cause mental health issues in employees.
Employers must have the required tools and resources, including suitable benefits and policies in place to help individuals reduce stress and deal with it. After all, a stressed individual is likely to make those around him feel stressed too. Employers should be able to guide employees through their difficulties and even financial challenges by imparting relevant knowledge, organising awareness campaigns and providing financial education.
It is up to the leaders/employers to ensure a psychologically-safe organisational and workplace where open dialogue on these issues is encouraged. This will help eliminate the stigma associated mental- health issues and make people aware of its negative impacts.
Employers can also rely on storytelling to let employees know that mental-health issues are common and nothing to be alarmed about. This will also assure those experiencing such issues that all they need is a little support to get them through the phase and come out all positive and mentally healthy.
Appointing wellbeing representatives or mental-health ambassadors with whom employees can discuss their mental-health issues in confidence is another step towards mitigating mental-health issues.
Leaders can actually lead by example and discuss their own mental-health issues and experiences so that employees are assured that it is not an extraordinary situation exclusive to them or something that cannot be discussed openly.
Use of inclusive language in mental-health communication is of utmost importance, and this should be driven home.
Managers and team leaders should be encouraged to trigger mental-health conversations daily.