Out of curiosity, I recently did a survey amongst my friends. As the year is coming to an end, a majority of companies are coming together in board rooms or taking retreats to have strategy sessions for 2023. I wanted to find out if employees are in any of these discussions and not just numbers, no. I was curious about the strategy’s companies were putting in place to focus on employee well-being.
It was very disheartening, yet not surprising, to find out that while employees are brought up, the focus is centered only on their performance. The most disappointing bit is the Human Resource departments were the last to be given a slot in these discussions. By this time everyone is exhausted and no one is really listening. The worst part is that while the department presents as human welfare, their focus is centered on hiring, retention and not employee mental health or happiness.
The month of October focuses on mental health and at this time you will find organizations scrambling, trying to squeeze in some semblance of care through workshops or team building exercises so that they can tick boxes. With employees spending the majority of their time at work, one day or one week is not enough to have a check-in to ensure they are mentally healthy. It is like trying to lose weight but only exercising one week a year. It is all in vain!
What most companies fail to understand, recognize and accept is that your business cannot exist or flourish without HUMAN BEINGS. Think of the company as the body, and employees being the heart. Having a heart is important, but having a healthy heart that pumps blood throughout the body to make the brain think, the hands and legs to move and work, the ability to reason is the ultimate goal.
The environment and conditions you place at work can have adverse effects on one’s mental health and this in turn affects the employee’s performance. According to the mental health Foundation in the UK, “1 in 6.8 people experience mental health problems in the workplace and this attributes to about 12.7% of sick-offs” Many employees here in Kenya take time off and check themselves in hospitals complaining of pain and exhaustion and more often than not these cases are related to mental issues like depression, anxiety, panic attacks etc. When you dig deeper, they often feel undervalued, uncared for and unappreciated at work not forgetting the added pressure of family, bills, economy and everything that is pushing and pulling us in all directions. There is no place where they feel safe and secure.
Simple things like ensuring employees have meals daily, or appreciating their efforts with heartfelt rewards go a long way. The half-hearted measures employed into employee mental health doesn’t cut it anymore. The culture of complacency towards your people at work will not only hurt your most important resource, the employee, it will eventually hurt your business.
By, Margaret Kemunto.