Gurrit K Sethi

Gurrit K Sethi

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Gurrit K Sethi, Founder, MIINDMYMIIND, contributes to healthcare by bringing to life new concepts which enhance accessibility, helps providers re-engineer businesses, works with Global Challenges Forum (a Swiss Foundation) on sustainable health initiatives. An avid traveller and voracious reader, these attributes provide her with incisive insights about people and systems and what drives them.

While the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment is changing the consumers’ buying behaviours, it is time to recognise the employees’ behavioural patterns for delivery to the consumers as well. The effects of mental health and changing behavioral patterns in the pandemic affected times impacts the businesses not just from the outside but the inside as much.

It is about time for us all to wake up. Wake up to the problems that our mental states present. Given the statistics of the number of people suffering from depression, this is bound to have an impact on the businesses that we run, given the productivity levels of the employees.

As per a recent study by GOQii, 43 per cent Indians suffer from depression because of the changing scenarios owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more alarming for the businesses is that 59 per cent of the under-study population said they had no pleasure in doing things these days, and, 12 per cent felt this way every day. Furthermore, 57 per cent complained of tiredness or low energy regularly. Another study done in 2020 using the DASS (Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale), published in the NIH, showed similar results. 25 per cent, 28 per cent and 11.6 per cent of the participants were moderate to extremely severely depressed, anxious and stressed respectively. 36 per cent of workers in India concurred that their mental health worsened with work from home – a critical outcome of the pandemic. On a more severe note, on December 7 2021, the Indian government said in Rajya Sabha that 10.6 per cent of adults in India face some kind of mental disorder. This sure is a tall acceptance.

In October 2021 the UNICEF, as per a survey done across 21 countries, reiterated about India that only 41 per cent of young people in India said that it is good to seek support for mental health problems, compared to an average of 83 per cent for the other 21 countries. This points to the suppressive nature of the society. A question to all of us is, does the corporate world reflect a similar trajectory?

A study by Assocham showed that nearly 42.5 per cent of employees in the private sector in India suffer from mental health issues at work. A study by Oracle in 2020 stated that 84 per cent employees reported increased stress and or anxiety at work than any other year.

These are alarming numbers. Data from the various studies above point to a simple fact – these trends are bound to impact our output. The loss of productivity at the individual level is bound to add up to the business level and finally aggregate to economic losses.

On a different note, another study reflected that out of the country’s approximately 1.1 million active registered companies, barely a 1000 are estimated to have a structured employee assistance programme (EAP) for mental health. A Deloitte 2020 survey also reported that while 80 per cent organisations recognised the importance of employee well-being, only 12 per cent were ready to address the issue.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the economic losses due to mental health conditions between 2012-2030 is estimated to be US$1.03 trillion in India. WHO also points out that for every US$1 invested in treating common mental disorders, there is a return of US$4 in improved health and productivity.

The 7th Fold survey also concluded that for every rupee spent on employee wellness, employers get a saving of Rs.132.33 as savings on absenteeism costs, and Rs.6.62 back as reduced healthcare costs. Approximately US$20 Billion is the estimated loss to Indian companies due to the lack of employee wellness programmes.

Despite all these surveys, mental health remains the most underplayed and underestimated problem in the country today. We either refuse to recognise it or refuse to accept it. A redressal can come only after admittance.

From the perspective of Organisationnel Behaviour (OB), productivity of the organisation is directly linked to the employee wellness factor. This needs organisations to be proactive about wellness—and this means not just physical wellness but also mental well-being of the workforce. They need to knead in the socio emotional factors as well because these are critical factors to the employees’ overall well-being. Thus, the importance of the Culture at the work place as this defines the environment for the workforce, which impacts their emotional selves and subsequently the psychological expressions. There are various studies today that also point to the link between a person’s psychological well-being and the physical health. A conducive and supportive environment can help better the productivity of the employees which impacts the financial health of the company in multifarious ways.

The Human Resource department’s responsibility does not simply end at hiring, record keeping, complying with labour laws of the land and getting the right insurances. Rather it only begins from there. Creating a conducive environment and then maintaining it is not just a string of activities any more, rather this needs to be a well thought through strategy in sync with the overall direction of the business and the annual goals to be achieved.

Today, it is critical to choose which OB model an organization needs to adopt and why. This may change along the trajectory of growth. And when the change needs to happen, a professional and well thought through intervention is required.

The changing scenarios and dynamism in the business world needs to be matched with a similar dynamism and adoption in the OB (organisational behaviours) strategy to ensure that the organization remains relevant and in the game. This is defined not just by the revenue numbers and the marketing strategy. We need to understand that the OB will finally define the employee behaviours that will drive these numbers. Organisations that have focused on ‘internal branding’ and taken care of what the employees think of their employer and have invested in people’s development and growth have shown a good growth trajectory. Of course, this needs to be in sync and alongside the product innovation and development, the sales and marketing strategies and other important elements of business.

So, it’s time to invest in Organisational Behaviour – this is a slightly long and tedious process – to understand the challenges through the right kind of diagnostics, which can help in the choice of models to be adopted and then structure a series of change actionables.

However, an immediate call to action can be to start to invest in the physical and mental well-being of employees. A happy and healthy employee is a productive employee, it’s that simple.

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