World Mental Health Day: how corporates are ensuring the mental wellbeing of their employees
A new normal was created in 2020 due to the deadly coronavirus. As a result of this, people witnessed a slew of changes in socio-economic patterns — from social distancing to remote working.
On one hand, while daily wage earners and migrant labourers lost their sources of livelihoods due to the complete shutdown of some businesses, the formal job sector saw a shift towards remote working. This, in turn, saw an increase in the number of people suffering from mental health ailments, including stress, depression, and anxiety.
According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, two out of five working professionals in India have been experiencing stress and anxiety due to the pandemic. And, one in three professionals believes that remote working is hindering the career progress, aggravating loneliness, and harming their work-life balance.
However, on the sunny side of things, many corporates and IT giants are taking measures to ensure that their employees can adapt to this new normal.
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, SocialStory spoke to corporates to understand how they have been ensuring the mental wellness of their employees amidst the looming health crisis.
Accenture is a Fortune 500 company with over 506,000 employees spread across the world. Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has been offering a variety of programmes and tools to equip its employees to take care of their mental wellness.
For example, it offers an AI-enabled chatbot to provide self-help techniques for better mental health and access to wellness experts. It has also introduced a meditation, sleep, and relaxation app. focused on practising mindfulness.
In addition to a 24/7 employee assistance helpline, it also launched a Bio Type quiz — designed by Thriving Mind and Stanford Medicine — to help employees understand stress triggers.
When it comes to the virtual training sessions, it is incorporating resources to build mental resiliency and in assisting people to cope with the stress that could be created by physical distancing.
“People are increasingly getting comfortable with leveraging technology to manage their health and well-being. For large organisations, such as ours, technology plays a key role in enabling high-quality, consistent experiences for our people. We are conscious that technology is only an enabler, and it is in combination with the human connection that we can create truly people-centred experiences,” says Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead for Human Resources, Accenture India.
Since the onset of the pandemic, IT services company CSS Corp has been mindful about the mental wellbeing of its employees and has been offering sessions and 24x7 counselling support.
Launched in April this year, it is motivating employees through its exclusive CHEER framework — ‘C’ stands for Communicating with employees; ‘H’ for Highlighting their accomplishments; ‘E’ for Energising them; ‘E’ for Engaging with them; and ‘R’ for Recognising and Rewarding them.
Additionally, it also has an employee assistance programme called the Turning Point — an initiative that focusses on mental health, providing employees with the necessary time and resources to counter problems and strengthen themselves.
“Through this programme, we have ensured that the lines of communication are constantly open so that people can easily have access to professional help, as and when required,” says Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head of HR (Global) and Corporate Quality.
With constant feedback from its employees, CSS Corp has been trying to resolve the problems of remote working.
“We believe that having a healthy work-life balance is crucial, especially in the current scenario when people are struggling to delineate between work and home. We aim to proactively neutralise burnout, anxiety, stress, and the problems that emerge from working virtually over an extended time,” he notes.
Walmart Global Tech
The Indian entity of WalmartGlobal Tech (formerly known as Walmart Labs), long before the coronavirus outbreak, had started focussing on the overall well-being of its associates. Amidst the pandemic, Walmart Global Tech India fast-tracked several of its programmes, one of which is its popular initiative Access to Happy Minds — a remote counselling service to help gain relief from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Additionally, the company is organising several webinars, as well as self-paced e-learning modules on topics related to mental health and work-life balance. To enable its employees to reduce their stress levels and enhance productivity, Walmart Global Tech has provided access to Global Thrive, an app that gives scientific solutions to avoid burnouts.
All the programmes were finalised by the tech giant after administering focus group discussions and surveys on the impact of working virtually.
“Our approach has been to ensure differentiated experiences for a variety of associate personas, as we believe each person has unique challenges. We have also leveraged technology to reach out at scale and ensure a wider range of options,” says Sudeep Ralhan, Vice President - People, Walmart Global Tech.
Walmart Global Tech’s initiatives were very well-received by the employees, and most of them were able to drive authentic conversations and deepen relationships despite missing out on the social connect of physically being at the office.
US-based business and financial software company Intuit, at the beginning of the pandemic, launched a microsite to provide employees with all the relevant resources to cope with the health crisis. Depending on the kind of queries that were put up, the company made it a point to constantly respond to them. The idea behind this was to extend care and support to employees.
“One of our first initiatives was the ‘Time-Off programme,’ to allow people to recharge, and get a hold on striking a balance between work and their personal lives,” says Jharna Thammaiah K, Director of Human Resource, Intuit India.
Besides this, Intuit put together training sessions for managers, to equip them to guide their teams to find the right support and resources to take care of themselves. Also, the firm continues to encourage the use of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which offers 24/7 assistance to help employees develop resilience, manage stress, overcome emotional issues, and anxiety
“After hosting many listening tours and understanding the needs and requirements of our employees, we devised strategies to offer support, keeping their well-being in mind. So far, we have received a lot of positive feedback,” Thammaiah quips.
Software company ThoughtWorks, which has 43 offices in 14 countries, began planning many of its initiatives targeted towards the mental well-being of its employees towards the end of 2019. As soon as the leadership team of the firm finalised the budget and resources for it, the programmes were given shape.
Most of the initiatives, including free virtual counselling and therapy sessions, internal helplines for mental health assistance, and regular online fitness sessions kicked off at the beginning of 2020.
Additionally, ThoughtWorks is hosting and encouraging regular peer-to-peer discussions, to openly talk about mental health, personal challenges, and relationships.
To understand the challenges being experienced by employees while working from home, the firm organised a ‘ThoughtWorks Wellness and COVID Pulse Check’ survey.
Thoughtworks and mental wellness
“Through the survey, many of the employees came forward and spoke up about the difficulties they were facing, like taking care of children and the elderly, while simultaneously working, defining personal boundaries, and dealing with distractions at home, etc. This helped us design our initiatives and cater to their struggles,” says Tina Vinod, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, ThoughtWorks.
The company is also conducting many online activities and panel discussions for its employees during the Mental Health Awareness Week, between October 4-10. Some of the subject areas that are being emphasised are the importance of fitness regimens, avoiding substance abuse, and relieving stress.