Developing mental health policy for the workplace
Mental health in Kenya has always been a sidelined issue yet it has proved to be quite fundamental in our daily lives. Recently on Twitter, a lot of people were giving accounts on how the toxic environment at their workplace is taking a toll on their mental health.
Additionally, Covid-19 has caused a surge in mental health cases as its effects include high levels of depression, anxiety and stress, thus causing a tremendous dip in productivity.
For employees to work at their best and contribute to the success of their organisation it is crucial for employers to come up a mental health policy to promote and protect the wellbeing of their employees.
The following steps will help an organisation create a proper mental health policy.
1. Identify existing policies, programmes and practices
This includes scrutinising the current human resource policies and practices and conducting a review and analysis as to whether they have inculcated matters of mental health and if not, identify the gaps that need to be addressed.
2. Review and analyse existing data
Some organisations have easy access to a range of data, and others have separate, disconnected groups of data. Combine your sets of data, establish a baseline for improvement and compare this against any relevant external reports or research. There is need to analyse the findings in a way that highlights the key areas for improvement so you know what to measure.
Some of the internal data that can be utilised include: bullying and sexual harassment claims, absenteeism reports, stress claims, exit interview data, drug or alcohol related incidents, measurements of workplace productivity and employee performance review feedback.
The external data to be looked into includes: The Auditor General’s Report, World Health Organisation’s Report, The State and Government’s report and research papers from reputable health institutions and organisations.
3. Consultation with staff to seek feedback on the organisation’s current approach
The management or working group should seek feedback to ensure they have a broad and accurate picture of current issues and gaps. This can be done through qualitative techniques such as conducting surveys. It is also important to seek external feedback to ensure the organisation is gathering information from a range of sources to inform the policy. External stakeholders could include professional bodies and industry associations.
4. Creation of the policy
Once this information is gathered, the organisation may create a mental health policy from an informed point of view. For starters, the organisation may establish desired outcomes and goals of the policy, for example through the development of an overarching statement, highlighting the immediate goals and what success looks like for the workplace mental health policy.
This should be clear and simple enough for the strategy team to work towards then create a simple and informative mental health policy for the employees and make it easily accessible. The policy should address all the underlying mental issues as highlighted by the staff and also advocate for persons to speak out when faced with a mental health condition to combat the stigma that comes with it.
Organisations with additional resources may further create partnerships or collaborations with persons with mental health expertise to provide counselling platforms and also ensure their employees are involved in interactive training sessions in relation to matters mental health. A case in point is the Weza Platform which provides online counselling sessions and their target market is organisations.
It is important to note that a mentally healthy person is a productive person. Therefore, it is about time that organisations started investing in the mental welfare of their employees for optimum results and above all to reduce the stigma created around mental health.
The writer is Lawyer, Intellectual property and Tax, CPM and Mental Health Advocate.