Why Mental Health Must Be on Your HR Agenda in 2021?

Murtuza Topiwalla
Apr 15

Before we dive into the role of HR in taking steps to improve the mental health of employees at an organization, we first need to understand what mental health means and why we need to look more into it. In layman's terms, mental health is basically how you feel up there, and by up there, we mean in your head. Do you feel content, happy, satisfied, and peaceful, or do you feel anger that can potentially lead to stress and frustration? All of these emotions, whether positive or negative, have an immense impact on everyone's lives. Your mental health is equally important as your physical health. 

Consider this, you have a particular assignment to do, a particular report to make, or a presentation coming up, and physically, you are all good. No physical pains, nothing but in your head you are stressing out, you cannot concentrate, and your thought process is all choked up. Would you be able to do your task efficiently? Of course not; your mind would be so overwhelmed that you would not feel like doing anything at all. Here is where mental health comes in, and here is why mental health should be a top priority on your HR agenda, especially in 2021. 

Deteriorating Mental Health during the Pandemic

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought several changes to the organizational dynamics. Individuals are still trying to register what is going on and adjust according to the "new normal." A large number of people have lost their jobs, and those who still have jobs are made to work from home. This takes a heavy toll on the employees as they need to manage work from a completely different setting while stressing out about how not to catch the virus, have a healthy routine, manage their time, stocking up on food and water, and constantly worrying about losing their jobs. According to a recent survey, it was found that depression in employees is reaching new heights. The firm Garter conducted this survey and found that among 5,000 of their employees, 29% had described themselves as depressed. 

Changing Workforce Dynamics during the Pandemic

Organizations must not ignore the mental health of employees during the pandemic. Thus, the Human Resource department of every organization needs to be more creative to chalk out new strategies that can help their employees achieve a better work-life balance. If the HR plan is not going to have mental health as its priority, sooner or later, your whole organization will collapse because you need to understand that COVID-19 is not going anywhere till everyone around the world has been vaccinated.

It will take a few years to get back to how things were pre-COVID, so not developing strategies can negatively impact the growth of your organization. The workers in your organization need to be emotionally, physically, and mentally fit because, otherwise, they won't care about the organization's goals or profits; they are only going to get the work done for the sake of getting the job done. If we look at the Total Brain's mental health index, which has been keeping track of the state of mind of the U.S workforce since the February of 2020, there is a clear and intense increase in depression levels, anxiety, stress, and burnout. According to another research conducted only a few months into the pandemic, 72% of the employees experienced burnout.  

To control the whole depression and burnout situation, many organizations have started employee wellbeing programs. They have also allotted flexible work hours to ensure enhanced comfort and convenience of the employees. So even though these companies are providing mental health programs, many employees still feel that they are not doing them any benefit in improving their mental health conditions considering these programs are pretty vague and not personal. 

Consequences of Not Having Employee Wellbeing Programs

There still seems to be a giant loophole as the companies are still in the process of making a functional strategy to cope with the depression of their employees, so let's say if your company still hasn't started to work upon these strategies, it is going to take you another few months to come up with one. By the time you are there, the burnout percentage would have increased among your employees, leaving your entire company at a significant loss, which would not be easy to recover.

More and more employees would become agitated and would want to not work for your company anymore, which means most of your projects would be left incomplete. Investing in employee wellbeing can be a masterstroke for companies looking to achieve long-term growth and better retention rates. People are desperate in the job market due to job losses in the pandemic; thus, hiring high-quality resources can be time-consuming and frustrating for employers during this period. 

The Way Forward

The first thing that needs to be done by your HR is research. Conduct research on how your employees are coping with the whole pandemic situation, how many of them are depressed, or have to deal with anxiety. The second step is to develop a plan to help the employees cope with their mental difficulties. It helps when you keep the entire program centralized with the board of directors and keep the employees in the loop, updating them about the whole agenda. The third thing that can be significant is implementing the plan you have just made and then analyzing if the program positively impacts your employees. Take the feedback and criticism from your employees, and try to improve your strategies. Build a weekly or monthly report on the employees' mental health and hand it over to your board of directors. 

This whole process would clarify where your employee's mental health is, what you need to do, how you need to do it, and if your mental health agenda is positively impacting your employees. You would also recognize what your employees need from you when you ask them for their input; this would also make your employees feel important and inclusive, precisely what they demand in a crisis like COVID-19.  

To sum it all up, let's say that your HR agenda of 2021 needs to have mental health as the top priority because your employees need it the most. If you fail to provide them with a solid plan to improve their mental health, it can potentially lead to reduced growth and low retention rates for your company.


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