Q&A: Navigating the Path to Mental Wellness in the Workplace with Bhavya Arora

In the hustle and bustle of the modern work environment, one topic stands out as a beacon of importance: employee mental well-being.

Let's dive right into this crucial discussion!

Q: Could you briefly describe your career path, including your starting point, progression in HR roles, any non-HR positions you've held, and the companies you've worked at?

I'm originally from Delhi. I completed my bachelor's in psychology and then pursued a master's in psychology and HR at Christ Bangalore. That's how I entered the field of HR, particularly organisational psychology.

I started my career at a Bangalore startup, focusing on areas like people operations and compliance rather than recruitment. After two years there, I joined Outplay, where I learned a lot and had the opportunity to build HR functions from scratch and hire a significant portion of the organization.

After spending two and a half years at Outplay, I moved to Sprinto in March of this year, where I currently serve as an HR VP. In my role, I oversee various aspects of talent management, people operations, and compliance. I have a passion for HR content and contribute actively to communities like PSOW and Talent Deck.

Outside of work, I love dancing, especially in heels, although my busy travel schedule makes it challenging to keep up with classes. I'm also on a journey to become healthier, one step at a time, despite occasional late-night pizza cravings.

I'm a dedicated volunteer on weekends, actively engaged in community work. I'm also a plant enthusiast and have a daily calendar reminder to water my plants at 6 PM. Lastly, I enjoy being active on social media and engaging with various platforms.

Q: What motivated you to select the topic of Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing so promptly?

I'm a strong advocate for mental health. With a background in psychology, particularly organizational psychology, I believe it gives me a deeper understanding of human behavior than, say, an MBA in HR. While mental health is discussed more today, it still lacks the same attention as physical health, like insurance coverage. I want to see a world where mental health is equally prioritized. This topic is a personal favorite, and if my article can positively impact even one person, it's a success.

Q: Do you believe there are sufficient online resources available in India for professionals and HR leaders to enhance their mental health and drive mental health initiatives effectively?

I want to start with the basics. We all have mental health, just like we have physical health. Mental health covers all our emotions, whether they're positive, neutral, or negative.

Mental Health vs. Mental Illness:

Sometimes, these emotions can lead to mental illnesses, just as diabetes can affect our physical health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are common examples of these mental health challenges.

Statistics Tell a Story:

In 2021, 59% of employees reported that work-related stress was taking a toll on their well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that depression and anxiety result in the loss of 12 billion working days worldwide each year, which basically means that they costs the global economy $1,000,000,000,000 per year.

Creating a Supportive Workplace:

To help with mental health, we can take several steps:

  1. Build a Positive Culture: Encourage empathy, transparency, and understanding within the organization.

  2. Personality and Soft Skills Tests: These can help us better understand our employees and colleagues.

  3. Mental Health Sessions: Consider organizing sessions or workshops, either virtually or in person, to promote mental well-being.

  4. Workplace Counselors: Having a counselor available can provide valuable support.

  5. Establish a Safe Process: Create a process for employees to discuss mental health without fear of negative consequences.

Equal Importance for Mental Health:

It's essential to treat mental health with the same importance as physical health. We should invest in it just like we do with our physical well-being.

Accessing Resources:

Many resources are available to support mental health, both free and paid. Exploring these resources can be a step towards a healthier and more supportive work environment.

These steps can make a significant difference in how we address mental health in the workplace.

Q: How can we better support younger individuals entering the workforce facing mental health challenges?

Certainly! In today's world, different generations have different approaches to emotions due to changing experiences. Younger generations are under more pressure in fast-paced environments, but older leaders in workplaces need to understand and promote mental well-being.

Companies can help by using tools like the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS 21) and offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) for mental health support.

In summary, promoting mental health awareness from a young age is crucial, and as the current generation becomes more informed, mental health will gain greater recognition in society.

Q: In an organizational setting, how can we destigmatize seeking mental health support, especially for managers who may need it but aren't aware of it?

In an organizational context, removing the stigma around seeking mental health support is vital. Here's how:

  1. Emotional Intelligence Assessment: Companies should consider evaluating the emotional intelligence (EQ) of potential hires. This helps ensure that employees have the ability to cope with various situations, which is valuable not just for mental health but also for overall teamwork.

  2. Manager Training: Managers who may not fully understand emotional well-being should receive training and coaching. This education can help them better support their teams and improve productivity.

  3. Address Attrition: High attrition rates can be costly for a company. If a manager's lack of EQ contributes to team members leaving, it's better to invest in coaching or consider a change in management rather than repeatedly hiring and training new employees.

  4. Benefits and Productivity: Investing in mental health benefits can lead to lower attrition rates, increased productivity, and greater innovation. When employees feel supported in their emotional well-being, they can focus on their work and contribute more effectively to the organization.

Q: Can you recommend tools or indicators for HR leaders to monitor and address employee mental health and its impact on attrition?

To effectively manage mental health in the workplace, it's crucial for leaders and HR personnel to be trained in recognizing common symptoms like burnout and stress. Look for signs such as decreased performance, increased absenteeism, or sudden unannounced leaves. Additionally, watch out for cynicism or self-doubt among employees.

There are various tools and resources available to help organizations measure and address mental health issues. These include personality tests and stress measurement scales, which can provide insights into employees' stress levels. Meditation apps like Headspace can promote relaxation and well-being.

Moreover, there are peer-to-peer support apps such as TalkLife, Now&Me, and MindPeers, offering platforms for employees to discuss their concerns and seek advice from peers. For more structured support, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can be considered, providing access to professional counseling services.

In addition to these tools, some organizations may choose to collaborate with mental health NGOs or therapists who offer affordable or sliding-scale payment options. Investing in these resources can help create a workplace culture that prioritizes mental health and well-being.

Q: Are there any additional benefits, beyond what you've already mentioned, to actively prioritizing employees' mental health?

Focusing on employees' mental health can lead to several benefits:

  1. Improved Productivity: Employees are likely to be more productive when they are mentally healthy and motivated.

  2. Psychological Safety: Creating a safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing ideas and taking risks can enhance innovation and teamwork.

  3. Happiness and Satisfaction: Employees' overall happiness and job satisfaction can improve, leading to better employee engagement and retention.

  4. Branding: Prioritizing mental health can boost your organization's reputation, making it more attractive to top talent.

  5. Reduced Attrition: A mentally healthy workplace can help lower employee turnover rates.

  6. Higher Referrals: Satisfied employees are more likely to refer others to your organization.

These benefits contribute to a positive work environment and overall business success.

Q: In the next 10 years, how do you envision India, both as a business landscape and as a society, progressing in terms of mental health awareness and addressing mental health issues?

In the next 10 years, it's crucial for India to have leaders who truly understand mental health issues and promote awareness instead of beating around the bush. Established companies with ample resources like Infosys and TCS can invest in mental health initiatives, setting an example for others. Startups, aiming for competitiveness and often catering to international markets, are likely to invest in mental health programs, especially given the younger workforce's better understanding. As mental health awareness grows, India can play a vital role in educating and supporting its people. By sharing knowledge and being proactive, we can create a positive ripple effect, ultimately changing the narrative around mental health.

Q: How do you envision the world changing to better acknowledge and address the mental health issues of the blue-collar workforce?

Interesting, Mental health awareness and support for the blue collar workforce in India face unique challenges. These workers often prioritize immediate financial needs for their families and may not recognize or address their emotional well-being.

As educated individuals who may employ them, we can help by creating awareness and providing support. NGOs like EmoAid are working to educate people in remote areas, but it will take time for mental health concepts to become more widespread, much like how sanitation awareness has spread over the years.

Collaboration among various organizations is essential to reach a broader audience. Initiatives like offering free mental health sessions at government hospitals and including dependents in insurance policies can also contribute to improving mental health support for these workers.

In conclusion, addressing mental health among daily wage laborers in India is a long-term effort that requires cooperation from NGOs, employers, and government agencies to raise awareness and make mental health support more accessible.

Do you work in HR?

Email abhash.kumar@springworks.in and let’s talk :)

Note: All views expressed in this interview are personal and not linked to any organisation.