It is said that one in 4 Kenyans who seek medical attention has a mental health condition ranging from minor to more serious ones. These statistics mean that a part of the working population is affected. This has a lot of negative impacts not only on the employees but also on businesses when productivity and output is low.
In September, the Ministry Of Health launched the National Guidelines on Workplace Mental Wellness. Mental wellness is all about preventing and coping with adverse situations that may lead to poor mental health. It is simply taking care of the mental and psychological state of a person to ensure that they are in a good place mentally.
Due to increased factors that may negatively impact people’s mental wellness, more businesses are encouraged to invest in mental wellness initiatives as part of staff welfare programmes. The causes of stress and other mental conditions vary and could come from external or internal factors.
Stress caused by internal factors is where a stressful or toxic workplace environment puts staff at risk of suffering psychologically.
The first obligation any business has in contributing to their staff’s mental wellness is to deal with any toxicity in the workplace. The Constitution and the Employment Act highlight some of the rights that all members of staff have regardless of their rank, gender, age or religion.
Some of these rights include the right to be treated with human dignity and freedom from discrimination.
Directly related to the workplace, the employees have the right to be treated fairly and justly. These rights are set in the law and act as a shield to protect the staff from human rights abuse in the workplace.
Other than the statutory provisions contained in the law, businesses are encouraged to have in place organisational policies that shield the staff from toxicity in the workplace. Some include sexual harassment and discrimination policies.
Most of the human rights abuses in the workplace are done by managers and supervisors. It is therefore important to train senior managers, more so the human resource department, to minimise abuse.
Some businesses have a mental wellness policy in place which constitutes the organisational thrust and actions taken to promote the mental well-being of staff. There are many ways a business can promote staff mental wellness. Some simple suggested steps are to make sure that the staff welfare programmes incorporate mental wellness, have a conducive office premise and include mental health as part of the cover.
Some businesses have a mental health day where they engage in physical and outdoor activities. I was listening to a podcast by a certain law firm that has in place a very sound mental wellness policy. They trained their staff on meditation and breathing techniques as a way to deal with work-related stress.
They also provided a “de-stress” room where staff can go and recharge. Showing your employees that you care can go a long way in increasing motivation and productivity.
Mental wellness at the workplace is an emerging trend in human resource management. There are many benefits of investing in this as part of staff welfare including improving staff health, enhanced motivation, and productivity, reduced employee turnover, and building a good company image that attracts talent.
In the long run, investing in workplace mental wellness is good for the business.
Ms Mputhia is the founder of C Mputhia Advocates | [email protected]