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Digital Solutions Transforming Mental Health Support In India's Tech Sector
Jharna Thammaiah, Director & India Site People & Places Leader at Intuit, believes that industry associations and forums empower individuals to become peer advocates, inspiring others with stories of recovery and self-care practices, ultimately creating a supportive work environment
The awareness and support for mental health and well-being have gained momentum in India's tech sector. As organisations recognise the significance of nurturing a mentally healthy workforce, they are leveraging technology and innovative strategies to address this crucial aspect. Jharna Thammaiah, Director & India Site People & Places Leader at Intuit, delves into the ways tech companies in India are prioritising and enhancing mental health support for their employees.
How have tech companies in India addressed the challenge of mental health issues, ensuring they offer to provide comprehensive support for their employees' mental well-being and overall health?
Advocating for mental health is fundamental as it affects people of all ages, genders, races and socioeconomic backgrounds. A rigorous approach is needed to raise awareness around the impact of negative mental health, support organisations focused on promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, sharing your story to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, encouraging others to seek help when they need it and constantly educating yourself and others about mental health issues.
Over the past few years, organisations are actively addressing and working towards the challenge of mental health issues and providing comprehensive support for their employees’ well-being. They are especially focused on aligning their well-being offerings to effectively serve employees in the hybrid work culture. It has become imperative that we keep our ears to the ground and understand what employees think, feel and act like to support them in the best way possible. By prioritising mental well-being, companies can create a healthier, a more productive and resilient workplace for their employees. As we recognise that mental well-being is just as important as physical health, it is great to see how mental health is being integrated in a holistic manner into overall wellness programmes and initiatives at the workplace.
Some of our more unconventional initiatives include a No meeting afternoon: A powerful step toward uninterrupted coding time for engineers, thus increasing productivity and Recharge Days in the last week of December in an effort to preserve mental health and personal well-being, in addition to other time off options including Family support time off.
What role do industry associations and forums play in promoting mental health awareness and resources for professionals in India?
Industry associations and forums serve as vital platforms for individuals to discuss and address various aspects of mental health. They offer support and a sense of community, connecting people facing similar challenges, fostering empathy and combating isolation. These forums facilitate peer-to-peer learning, enabling individuals to share coping strategies and personal experiences, providing practical advice for managing mental health concerns. They also contribute to reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues by promoting open discussions and acceptance.
These associations provide accessible information and resources related to mental well-being, offering educational materials, workshops/seminars, therapy options, self-help techniques and information about professional services. Moreover, these platforms empower individuals to become peer advocates, inspiring others with stories of recovery and self-care practices and ultimately help create a supportive work environment that promotes mental health and well-being. They advocate for policies that support mental health, such as flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs, and mental health leave.
Additionally, mental health forums foster networking and collaboration among individuals, professionals and organisations, leading to partnerships and initiatives aimed at improving mental health services and support systems. Overall, industry associations and forums play a critical role in promoting mental health awareness and resources for professionals in India. They help to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and create a supportive environment where professionals can seek help when needed.
Can you share insights into the ways technology and digital solutions are being leveraged in India to support mental health and well-being initiatives?
Technology and digital solutions are being leveraged in India to support mental health and well-being initiatives in several ways. More businesses are making investments in digital and easily accessible solutions to create a strong and resilient workforce.
Digital tools can enable widespread beneficial behavioral change or provide therapeutic treatments. Using online platforms and telecommunication methods makes access to mental health services easier for people, even those who live in remote areas or have difficulty accessing online counseling. There are also several mobile apps available in India that provide mental health support. These apps offer features such as self-assessment tools, meditation and relaxation exercises, and access to mental health professionals. Wearable technology such as smartwatches and fitness trackers are being used to monitor mental health indicators such as heart rate variability and sleep patterns. This data can be used to identify potential mental health issues and provide early intervention. Even chatbots are being used to provide mental health support to people who may not feel comfortable talking to a human therapist. These chatbots use artificial intelligence to provide personalized support and guidance.
Analytics tools complement remote data collection by providing insights into individual and team well-being. They can help identify when employees need time off or when teams are experiencing high stress levels. Overall, these technological advancements offer new ways to enhance employee well-being and productivity while respecting privacy and individual needs.
What are the key challenges and opportunities that the tech companies in India faces in its efforts to prioritise and enhance the mental health and well-being of its workforce?
Overcoming the stigma associated with mental health issues remains a challenge in India. Many employees may be reluctant to seek help due to fear of judgment. This is especially harmful as there is still improvement needed in terms of a demanding and stressful work environment, which can contribute to mental health issues such as burnout and anxiety. There is also a shortage of mental health professionals in India, leading to limited access to counseling and therapy services.
To tackle these issues, both organisational culture and technology can be leveraged to provide mental health support to employees. The foremost focus should be on creating a workplace environment that allows employees to feel safe in being their true selves. Enable that environment with resources and tools that support mental wellbeing. Additionally, employers could leverage opportunities to combat burnout by exploring diverse technologically influenced solutions like mobile apps or virtual counseling for individuals experiencing problems with their mental health and wellbeing and come up with strategies to foster the healthiest work environments. The use of analytics and data-driven insights can help companies proactively identify and address mental health issues in their workforce.
How does HR gather feedback from employees to continually assess and improve the effectiveness of mental health support programmes?
The human resources function is a custodian of the organisations’ culture. Enabling a culture where all employees including leaders and managers normalise the existence of mental wellbeing issues is critical. Leaders being vulnerable themselves and role modeling is critical to influence the culture and the HR function can play a role in enabling this. Feedback is also a necessary tool with a significant impact on employee well-being and performance. When employees receive recognition and feel valued, they become more engaged, motivated and productive. Timely and frequent feedback is crucial, as it helps employees stay on track and understand their contributions to the organisation's success.
Open communication is vital for employee well-being, reducing stress, increasing job satisfaction and improving mental health. The HR function should also leverage anonymous surveys or questionnaires to collect feedback from employees on this area and can cover topics like the overall effectiveness of mental health programmes, specific services utilised and suggestions for improvement. Focus group discussions are another way for employees to share their experiences with mental health support programmes. It is crucial to analyse the data, identify trends and develop actionable plans for improvement. Regular communication with employees about the changes resulting from their feedback also helps build trust and demonstrates a commitment to their well-being.