Mental health is slowly ceasing to be a taboo subject in Poland, and the well-being of employees is becoming of real concern to employers. This is confirmed by the actions of several companies, including a number of activities and programs focused on improving the quality of life of employees and their well-being at work. Joanna Leszczyńska, HR Business Partner at Schibsted, presents three areas in which the employer should take care of the mental health of employees.
It is well-known that long-term stress can cause many serious diseases and ailments. However, until a few years ago, especially in the work environment, little was said about its impact on the mental state of people unless it was directly related to their performance and productivity. What’s more, even today the cultural and social conditions are conducive to the fact that work is still associated mainly with the multitude of duties, overtime, or lack of time for the family. Unfortunately, it happens that even educated people, who in theory should be aware of the negative impact of stress on human life and health, still believe that those who work a lot are the most valuable, while the best way to prove themselves in the eyes of the employer and guarantee success in the future is to work 16 hours a day. Indeed, perhaps in the years of early capitalism, such an approach could work – especially if promoted by managers and superiors living according to these principles. Fortunately, times are slowly changing. Today, many employers do care to provide employees with appropriate working conditions, and even in the United States, where the so-called hustle culture is rooted, more and more voices are being heard that it is a toxic approach, doing more harm than good. It is worth looking at it not only from the perspective of the organization’s productivity or profit but also from the perspective of the health and quality of life of society as a whole. The best examples of good practice in this area are the Scandinavian countries. As shown by international studies and reports, e.g., the Global Workforce Happiness Index, it is in Denmark and Norway that the highest levels of job satisfaction can be found.
To begin with – education
Despite the increasing openness among Poles to topics related to mental health, there is still a lot to be done in this area. All kinds of educational programs can help by preventing mental health problems from being played down as well as stigmatizing those who struggle with them, especially in the workplace. – At Schibsted, we make sure that this topic is an important element of implementation already at the stage of onboarding and familiarizing new employees with the company’s organizational culture. We treat mental health as our priority. We also pay special attention to educating the managerial staff so that they are attentive and build trust among their employees and offer a safe space for discussions about their mental health. We can’t forget about the importance of well-being not only at work but also in the everyday life of each of us – explains Joanna Leszczyńska, HR Business Partner at Schibsted.
Real actions above all
However, it is known that in the face of the increasing demands of employees and their growing awareness of it, education must go hand in hand with real support. This is confirmed by the results of the study “Mental health in the work environment”, conducted in April 2021 as part of the educational and information campaign “Understand. Feel. Act! “. Almost 90% of its participants indicated that their employer expected help for employees with mental disorders. This is undoubtedly a good sign, but also a kind of symbol of changes taking place in our society. According to the data of the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, almost every fourth Pole struggles with at least one mental disorder. What’s more, this number, unfortunately, grows every year. Along with this, however, society’s awareness of mental health grows, the level of social understanding increases, and so does the willingness to provide people affected by these problems with real support in everyday life. – Support for employees is crucial to maintain the quality of the organization’s functioning and we are glad that more and more employers are aware of this. At Schibsted, we constantly talk to employees and listen to their needs. It was on this basis, among others, that we decided to implement the Breathe program. Real actions are needed to improve the well-being and have a positive effect on the mental health of our employees. As part of this program, each employee has access to free online therapeutic consultations, available on an external platform and ensuring full discretion. We also organize cyclical webinars on topics indicated by people working in our company, and in addition, each employee has the opportunity to take advantage of 4 additional days of leave during the year, at any time – adds Joanna Leszczyńska. Such activities should become a priority for all companies that want to realistically respond to the expectations of their employees. This is best evidenced by the results of a study conducted by Oracle; although more than half of respondents say that their companies have changed and adapted their employee benefits, offering additional mental health benefits or support related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 76% of employees surveyed believe their company should do more to better protect the mental health of employees.
Concern for the well-being of everyone on a daily basis
People struggling with mental health problems should be given special care and attention, but employers should also remember about other employees. Stress and the fast pace of life often contribute to the increasing prevalence of mental disorders among Poles. The study “Mental health in the work environment”, conducted in April 2021 as part of the educational and information campaign “Understand. Feel. Act!”, showed that employees currently face many difficulties at work. The respondents mainly indicated lack of energy to act (51.75%), worse mood (50.31%), lower motivation (48.77%), problems with concentration (44.03%), isolation from the team (27.16 %), and difficulties in making decisions (11.42%). Importantly, only 16.5% of the respondents did not report any difficulties. – More and more companies want the concept of “work-life balance” to be more than just an empty slogan. Positive changes can start with the introduction of flexible working hours. This will make it easier for employees to reconcile their professional responsibilities with their lifestyles. This should also be worked out based on trust as well as caring for friendly relations between employees. Additionally, it is worth considering introducing relaxation zones in the office. As a result, even those who have been used to working from home for over a year will find it easier to find their place in the office space – suggests Joanna Leszczyńska, HR Business Partner.
The current situation in the world has verified the perception of which areas of care for employees should be a priority for employers in the future. Health, both physical and mental, definitely tops this list. – Our experience to date shows that all our activities are very positively received. Quarterly, we conduct anonymous employee engagement level surveys as well as teach managers how to work with a team based on survey results using ACT: Acknowledge where we are. Collaborate on where we want to go methodology. Take one step forward. These studies show that the level of engagement has remained exceptionally high over the past year: 83 points out of 100. In addition, we also monitor the mood of employees in real-time, based on short and regular surveys, the so-called pulse surveys. Our Scandinavian work culture means that we draw on the best models, which we try to meet through specific activities carried out locally in the Polish market – summarizes Joanna Leszczyńska from Schibsted.