10 Takeaways From #LeadershipDuringCrisis: Tackling Mental Health During COVID-19 Virtual Roundtable

It’s no secret that mental health concerns among employees are on the rise because of the pandemic; but just how bad is it, and what can leaders do to support their team’s well-being?

During Mental Health Awareness Month 2021, MindNation held its first ever virtual roundtable for business leaders to learn and discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health and well-being in the workplace. 

“Traditionally, topics like substance abuse, anxiety, and depression used to be considered personal matters and not addressed in the workplace,” explains MindNation Chief Marketing Officer Cat Triviño. “But the lines are now blurred and we can longer deny the effects of mental health concerns on an organization’s bottomline and overall success.

Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo kicked off the event by delivering the Welcoming Remarks, sharing that “Building a better normal means constantly recognizing that no single area of human health is more important than another.”

In addition, data experts and mental health advocates Ajay Bangia of global market research firm Ipsos and MindNation Chief Insights Officer Piril Yagli discussed how creating a culture that values psychological safety affects a company’s growth and success during these trying times. 

Finally, top industry leaders Merlee Jayme, Global President of advertising agency Dentsu Mcgarrybowen, Mark Lyndsell, CEO for the Global English Region of business process outsourcing company Transcom Worldwide, and Kevin Williams, Country General Head of cloud solutions provider RingCentral, offered insights and new ideas on the implementation of mental health programs. 

Here are some of the key points shared by the speakers:

“We must open more spaces to talk about mental health, create avenues where people can share their struggles comfortably without feeling ashamed, and foster an environment of love, care, and support.”

Vice President Leni Robredo
  1. Mental health and well-being issues are a growing problem in the workplace.

When Filipino employees were asked to rate their mental wellness pre- and post-pandemic on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 is “depressed” and 10 is “feeling my best self”), they felt an 8 before the pandemic versus a declining 6.5 after the pandemic.

According to Ajay Bangia, the depression, stress, and anxiety felt by people are due to job insecurity, work pressure, and difficulty handling work-life balance. 

Additionally, people are feeling a high degree of isolation. “Loneliness is one of the key sources of mental health and well-being challenges during this pandemic,” Piril Yagli of MindNation says. 

  1. No one is exempt from mental health challenges, but some are more affected than others.

In the Philippines, employees who are 18-30 years old, working the night shift, and who indicated their gender as LGBTQ (or would prefer not to say) are the ones most likely to be struggling with COVID-related fears, financial pressures, personal matters, work performance pressures, and juggling work and family life. 

  1. Women with children are also facing greater amounts of stress levels.

Because of the pandemic, working mothers have to juggle being full-time mothers as well as breadwinners. “Their whole day turns into a roller coaster of work, then kids, then house chores, then preparing meals,” Piril shares. 

“Home used to be a place for rest, now it has merged into our work life,” Merlee Jayme of Dentsu Mcgarrybowen adds. “Work has eaten into all of our personal space.”

  1. All these mental health and well-being challenges significantly impact the company– to the tune of PHP7 million per year (for every 1,000 employees). 

This amount is lost due to:

  • Absenteeism. 13% of employees said they would take a sick leave due to mental health and well-being challenges
  • Presenteeism. 35% of employees revealed they are unproductive at work for up to two hours a day — equivalent to losing one day in a week or up to two months in a year. 
  • Talent loss. 5% of employees in a company stated that they would quit their jobs due to mental health and well-being challenges. 
  1. Unfortunately, not everyone is open about their struggles.

Only 10% of employees would tell their superiors that they are taking a sick leave due to mental health challenges. This is because there is still a stigma surrounding mental health especially in the workplace. Employees fear that talking about depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns will negatively affect how managers view them and their job performance.

  1. Three things that companies can do to address the mental health crisis in the workplace:
  • Create a Mental Health company policy. While the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment requires workplaces in the formal sector to implement Mental Health Workplace Policies and Programs, many companies still have not created such.
  • Stop the stigma by talking about mental health openly. “Leverage mid-level managers to talk with their teams, understand their challenges, and make them aware what help is available,” Piril suggests.
  • Lastly, partner with a mental health and well-being provider who cares. While many corporations do have Employee Assistance Programs, research has shown that the usage rate of these support systems are lower than 10% because most of them are not accessible 24/7 all year round. “It is important to partner with a mental healthcare provider that has psychologists and WellBeing Coaches who are available all day, everyday, so that employees can get help the moment they need it, rather than waiting until it is too late,” she adds.
  1. To create a workplace culture that values and supports mental health and well-being, managers need to be more empathetic and employee-centric. 
  • “Show empathy. Let your colleagues know you feel the same way they do, that you can talk about real things, not just revenues and client budgets,” Merlee suggests. 
  • “Mental health needs to be overcommunicated,” Kevin Williams of RingCentral shares. “When people come to you, ask the easy yet hard question, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘Are you happy?’”
  • “What we need today are leaders and organizations with a high degree of Emotional Intelligence,” Mark Lyndsell of Transcom Worldwide adds. “As a leader I’m willing to sacrifice IQ provided I have leaders who are grounded, transparent, authentic, and flexible.”
  1. Listen and understand the needs of the organization. 

47% of employees think they have too much work,” Piril shares. “So please make it a priority to talk to your teams, try to understand what they’re working on, is there anything that can be simplified, automated, or outsourced?”

  • “In our office, we have Wellness Wednesdays,” Merlee says. “These are no-meeting days that employees can use to catch up on work or just zone out.”
  • “At RingCentral, we have a quarterly company CaRING Day — adding a paid holiday and an extended weekend to every quarter to encourage our teams to disconnect from work and recharge,” Kevin adds
  • Employees of Transcom are encouraged to communicate openly with their leaders. “Every single day we poll our employees on how they are feeling; and if they are feeling down, to tell us why,” says Mark.
  1. It takes action and collaboration from all sectors to create happier and healthier spaces for all. 

“We must treat mental health as an important aspect of our healthcare agenda,” says Vice President Leni Robredo. “We must open more spaces to talk about mental health, create avenues where people can share their struggles comfortably without feeling ashamed, and foster an environment of love, care, and support.”

  1. There is no health without mental health. 

“The last 15 months of the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the mental health of organizations and many have been found wanting,” Mark adds. “I believe that there is so much more we can and should be doing, and as a leader it starts with me.”

According to Piril, the top 5 things that employees want to overcome their mental health and well-being challenges are psychologist services, WellBeing Coach consultations, training on mental health and well-being, fitness coaches, and sick leaves for mental health concerns. “For a mental health and well-being program in the workplace to be effective, the provider needs to listen to the voices of the employees, understand their challenges, and provide solutions specific to their needs,” she says. 

MindNation uses a data-based approach to create proactive, customized, holistic health programs for your employees. Partner with us to build happier, healthier, and more productive teams. Email [email protected] now!

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