World Mental Health Day 2020: How HR Leaders Addressing The Challenge of Stress At Work

World Mental Health Day was observed for the first time on 10 October 1992. It was initiated as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health by the then Deputy Secretary-General Richard Hunter.


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The entire world is dealing with different levels of fear, uncertainty, isolation, restrictions, social distancing, contactless setting, distress, and more. And the result is that depression has become a common mental health issue amid all this Tug of War.  

While depression symptoms are common for all, however, vary at different ages. It has become a regular phenomenon among youngsters. Though, these days corporate professionals are going through a lot of mental stress.  

What, Why, and How of World Mental health Day?
World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. The Day provides an opportunity for all people working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.  

History- World Mental Health Day was observed for the first time on 10 October 1992. It was initiated as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health by the then Deputy Secretary-General Richard Hunter. The day is officially being observed every year on October 10th.

What is The Theme for World Mental Health Day 2020? 

Talking about mental problems or health holds a huge stigma around it but all of us must have witnessed a change in peoples’ perspective towards mental health during the recent worldwide disruption. This World Mental Health Day urges to pay urgent attention and investment for mental wellbeing which can no longer be neglected.  

In the recent past years the themes were; Year 2017 - Mental Health in the Workplace, Year 2018 - Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World, Year 2019 - Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.

The theme for this year is -- Mental Health for All, Greater Investment – Greater Access
Let’s break the stereotype and stigma around mental health and feel free to discuss mental health-related problems, feel free to consult psychologists & expert doctors, and feel free to reach out to close friends, family members, or even complete strangers if you feel the need to talk and discuss it.
Importance and Relevance of The World Mental Health Day 2020 

The year 2020 will be remembered and known for many unprecedented and extremely unfortunate consequences. Millions of people have faced depression, stress, mental tension, suicidal tendencies, the trauma of losing loved ones, instability of the jobs and careers, which had badly hit the mental health of millions of people across the globe. ‘A recent survey reveals that 2 in 5 Indian professionals are in distress’ which is really alarming and serious. 

Due to the coronavirus outbreak; there has been a steep rise in patients with mental illness in the country. In a recent survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatry Society, the sudden rise is up to 20 percent and according to the survey, at least one out of every five Indians is suffering from mental illness. At this point; on the occasion of World Mental health Day; it is even more crucial to pay attention to mental health and should be taken care of very seriously.

Effect on Indian Job Market  

The worldwide pandemic and lockdown cost 14 lakh salaried jobs of youth in India. The recent CMIE report shows the slump in growth and also states that ‘about 21 million salaried jobs lost in Apr-Aug period.’ The companies slashed thousands of jobs, cut down salaries, announced Leave without Pay in order to save their businesses and some companies have also encountered total shutdown. People experiencing instability and have fear in the back of their minds of losing their jobs which leads to the rise in problems related to  mental health.

How HR Leaders’ Cope-up with the situation 

HR Leaders of the companies have been at the forefront; they prioritized safety and health and safeguarded the employees. Employees are experiencing and operating in the New Normal of Flexi work styles which comes with a lot of advantages and some disadvantages as well. Keeping every aspect in mind; People Officers and leaders of the organization hold the responsibility of taking care of employees’ health. Communication plays a key role in defining the culture of any organization. The transparency in leaders' conversation, compassionate communication, and open environment will surely help in creating a better future for mental health care.

In the New Era; HR Leaders are introducing numerous initiatives in order to create a much fairer and open environment to talk about mental health. The theme of this year aims at encouraging greater investment and allowing greater access for mental health for all, and accordingly, HR leaders are all focussed to put self-care a first for everyone for a brighter and healthier future.

The current worldwide pandemic has alerted people towards the importance of mental health care. On this World Mental Health day; BW People reached out to HR Leaders of different organizations across industries and talked about mental health. Here is what industry experts say: 

Ira Gupta, Head HR, Microsoft India

“At Microsoft, we are being intentional about encouraging employees and their families to focus on mental wellbeing. Our approach to mental health and wellbeing is centered around destigmatizing mental health issues, creating infrastructure and systemic capability for supporting employees, and actively promoting the significance of mental wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing is a vital part of work today and it will be important to ensure that technology that is designed is inclusive, has accessibility and security built-in, and provides people the flexibility to use it anytime, anywhere. That’s why we’ve shifted our focus from building products to designing technology experiences that help organizations and individuals do business in smarter, more productive, and more efficient ways while prioritizing well-being.”

Deepti Varma, Director HR, Amazon

”The pandemic has certainly thrown light on a new spectrum of issues related to mental and emotional health. While the ways of working may have changed around, we believe that it is important to continuously discover new ways of staying connected. We use Connections, a mechanism where employees get a question daily, to monitor the work-from-home experience which has helped us to be agile to influence our policies, work flexibility benefits and processes to support this change.   We continue to conduct physical and emotional wellbeing webinars, in addition to a gamified wellness initiative while continuing to work virtually. Above all, we are providing our employees and their dependents access to Employee Assistance Program as well as teleconsultation services with medical experts”.     

R AnandaKrishnan, EVP- HR & IT,  TVS Motor Company

“With the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, there is a growing anxiety amongst individuals owing to fake news, fear of the virus, social isolation, etc.  The employers have to monitor from time to time if the workforce is in the right frame of mind amidst unprecedented times. The managers should create an open environment where the employees feel supported.  Besides health benefits; transparency, empathy, and patience towards employees’ needs and those of their families is the need of the hour.

At TVS Motor Company, we place paramount importance on employee well-being.  The Company has rolled-out comprehensive employee-friendly initiatives for mental well-being. We always believe compassion goes a long way.”

Aarif Aziz, CHRO - Diageo India

"At Diageo India, we have strived to live our purpose of “Celebrating life every day, everywhere” to the fullest and one way of doing it is by ensuring the utmost well-being of our employees. The pandemic has impacted the mental wellbeing of people in some-way or the other thus it is important to treat mental and physical well-being equally.

We have focussed on building a culture that is inclusive, where everyone can share their views, perspectives, and experiences so that people are connected and express themselves in the best possible way. Our approach to wellness is holistic, both through mental and physical engagement, directly and through experts in the field" 

Suma P N, Director-HR, Otis India 

“Over the past few years, awareness around mental health & wellness has been gaining prominence.  While much has been done, we still have a long way to go. The more we talk about it the more we destigmatize talking about mental health. At this point in time, the focus at Otis India is ensuring the safety, health and wellbeing of our people. One of the key Otis leadership traits is empathy, which needs to be lived by all of us during this challenging time. We need to provide secure work experience, a sense of caring & belonging for our employees. Let’s support mental health awareness. Let’s support one another” 

Roshni Wadhwa – Director- HR, L’Oréal India

“As a people-focused organization, we are committed to the well-being of our employees. The pandemic and ensuing lockdown have only reinforced the importance of mental health and wellness. 

We look at mental health as a critical aspect of overall health and wellbeing. Our medical leave can be availed for both physical and mental ailments, we have a round-the-year Employee Assistance Program that offers confidential, counseling to employees and their families as per their requirement and convenience. Our aim is to create an open culture for people to be able to express their concerns/issues, assured of psychological safety. Leaders are encouraged to be empathetic with their teams and manage difficult situations sensitively. We also regularly organize awareness programs with external experts on the subject, as we want to create platforms for enhanced dialogue to address/destigmatize issues related to stress and anxieties.”

Pooja Bhagat, VP Total Rewards – APAC & EMEA, Human Capital, Optum Global Solutions

Mental health and emotional wellbeing comprise a key tenet of our holistic and award-winning wellness program – LiveWell. We are committed to breaking the age-old stigma around mental health concerns and inculcating a sense of ‘Being happy’. At Optum, extensive efforts are made through different employee touchpoints on their overall wellbeing including mental health. This is in alignment with our mission “To help people live healthier lives and to help make the health system work better for everyone”. Specifically, during these formidable times of the pandemic, we are cognizant of the potential impact on people and their families, hence we have accordingly directed our efforts to launch programs that help employees during different life stages. We believe that this holistic focus to address all possible stressors will boost the mental and emotional wellbeing of all our employees, empowering them to do their life’s best work.


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