It is well-known that the efficiency and success of a company depend a lot on the well-being of its employees. Thankfully, nowadays, many employers have come to acknowledge this and they have involved themselves in maintaining their workforce’s health as best they can, for example, by offering health insurance as part of their remuneration package, or by allowing employees to work from home after major surgery.

However, the reality is that a significant number of employers still have their focus on the physical aspect of health, sometimes neglecting the need to address the issues affecting mental health. By doing so, employers are missing out on the many benefits that are to be gained from respecting the mental aspect of well-being. They may not realise how mental healthcare can help organisations stay ahead in the corporate challenges facing many businesses today.

What’s in it for employers?

All employers want to bring out the best skills in their employees, reduce employee turnover and prevent absenteeism, to name but a few ever-present bugbears. The trouble is that all human beings – and this includes employers as much as employees − can experience difficult personal problems, such as family issues, relationships, bereavements or other matters not directly related to the workplace, but which do affect that individual’s work-life.

Furthermore, stress management is always a big issue in the working environment, while constant competition and deadlines can take their toll on staff. All these issues bring about stress, which can have a negative impact on workers’ overall health and can lead to workplace depression, anxiety and declining productivity in an office.

There are a variety of solutions for employers to choose from, each bringing its own mix of advantages. Employers can opt to engage a psychotherapist on an ad hoc or part-time basis, to visit the premises on certain days of the week, for a stipulated number of hours, to hold therapy sessions for anyone who wishes to avail of this service during these hours, free of charge or for a subsidised fee. Alternatively, a designated room can be allocated within the workplace for employees to use as a safe space for online therapy with a personal therapist of their choice during work time; yet another variation is that a psychotherapist can be engaged by the organisation to provide therapy to employees during or after office hours, on or off premises, and so on. The permutations are many, and online therapy, which has become the preferred choice for many, has made everything more accessible, adding a further dimension to the mix.

Stress can have a negative impact on workers’ health and can lead to workplace depression, anxiety and declining productivity

Employing a full-time in-house therapist is another possibility. This choice is more suited to larger organisations or conglomerates in terms of cost-effectiveness, but it does bring additional benefits to the employer. For example, the psychotherapist’s professional services can be utilised to explore and address the reasons behind an employee having inconsistent performance issues. Similarly, the therapist may be asked to offer support to employees who are having difficulties understanding the importance of teamwork.

In-house disciplinary counselling can also be initiated when an employee fails to maintain proper work ethics and etiquette, such as absenteeism, constant arguments with co-workers, irritable behaviour, and so forth.

The main objective here is to provide for the organisation by offering suitable therapeutic support to the employees.

One overarching benefit of introducing mental healthcare is that today’s workforce is more inclined towards a company that actually cares about its workers. When employers show an understanding of the individual issues affecting their workers, they paint a much more appealing company picture. And a company’s care for employees’ well-being builds a progressively more robust ‘employer of choice’ image which helps to attract the best employees around − a win/win situation.

How should employers go about introducing healthcare in the workplace?

Employers can start by establishing a better relationship with allied professionals in the field of mental health. Introducing this new element into the art of networking is a first step in the right direction.

A registered, accredited professional mental health practitioner can be engaged to design and carry out a ‘needs analysis’ of the workplace, keeping in mind both the needs of employees as individuals and those of the organisation as a whole. Negotiations can then be entered into with respect to conditions, hours of service and choice of venue where therapy sessions can be held.

Though making allowances for employees to take time off during the working day may seem, in the short term, to be a counter-intuitive move, more and more businesses and even government departments are viewing this as an overall beneficial strategy with long-term benefits in employee contentment, generating better decision-making, reduced attrition and higher levels of engagement, which is then reflected in greater productivity.

Alex Xuereb, Gestalt psychotherapist

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