There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in ― Leonard Cohen
Mental health is often hard to talk about openly. People would rather not become stigmatized or shunned by their peers, often because of a need to fit in and conform to a certain social role or position. In many cases, mental health issues are suppressed, signs are ignored, and for a time, this might work. The individual might believe that they're ok, that they're like their peers. But the problems still lurk underneath that veneer of normality and well-being, and, if left unchecked, the issues are likely to get worse.
Protecting one's mental health (and that of others) is a challenge in normal times. But the era we're living in is far from ordinary. The Covid-19 pandemic has hurt millions of people over the past 22 months or so. In some cases, the injuries are physical, in the form of illness and disease, and for many, fatal outcomes. But millions of others have been hurt in ways that are not so obvious to the naked eye. In fact, you might not notice anything at all when you look at these people. But they're hurting, nonetheless. Hurting inside.
The pandemic has sparked an avalanche of mental health issues. It has exacerbated existing problems in some people and created new outsets in others. Fear of losing one's life, or losing a loved one. Constant preoccupation about employment. Feelings of loneliness or isolation since working from home became virtually mandatory. Stress over finances, the list goes on and on.
Dealing with mental health issues can be a lonely journey. Oftentimes, there's a sense of why me. What is wrong with me? That's the insidiousness of mental health problems, and that's when cracks begin to appear in people's minds. But as Canadian singer-songwriter and author Leonard Cohen aptly put it, cracks are how the light gets in to cast a shine on very dark places.
People spend a lot of time at work. On average, people spend 90,000 hours -a third of their lives- at work.
Work can have profound effects (both positive and negative) on someone's mental health. Peer interaction, the type of work, the physical environment, the 'perks' (or lack thereof) can affect how someone perceives the workplace and their own life.
Considering all these factors, employers have a duty of care towards their employees, and can -and should- develop a framework of support for staff's mental health. This framework usually originates in the employer's Human Resources (HR) department, although sometimes third-party counseling services might be engaged.
Most relationships require open and frank communication, and employer-employee is no exception. Keeping staff informed on company developments, financial status, future direction, and the overall health of the business is key to maintaining engagement and preventing doubts and worries that might lead to stress and other issues.
There are many different types of psychological difficulties. Many do not manifest in visible, perceivable, physical symptoms. But often, trained HR staff can pick up on outward signs of internal strife or turmoil in an employee. In these situations, HR can offer help in the form of stress management workshops, counseling sessions, or related services that might help get to the bottom of the problem and begin to address it.
No two minds are quite the same, and consequently, no two employees are the same. Some cope and adapt better than others, for example. Some people might enjoy working onsite, while others might prefer the relative solitude of their own home or co-working space. What it's clear is that a 'one size fits all' approach to scheduling and working patterns will never work. Besides, the Covid-19 pandemic has decisively confirmed that people can work from home just as efficiently (or even more so) than working from the office.
The employer should recognize and accommodate this paradigm shift in workers' attitude, and, where possible, ensure that everyone is working from where they want to be, rather than imposing a strict (and frankly, outdated) 9-5 routine. This flexibility will keep staff morale up, and in turn, help to reduce possible stress and negative feelings against the company, which might have arisen if employees are forced to attend the office.
People should be at the center of all HR policies. A company is defined by its culture, and by how it treats its staff. A welcoming environment evokes positive feelings, which in turn fosters better mental health overall. It is the onus of the employer to maintain and promote this wellbeing, through initiatives such as free brunches, regular meetups, learning programs, referral bonuses, team-building exercises, onsite massage therapy, games and music room, corporate trips, etc.
At AllSTARSIT, all our policies are people-centric. We care deeply about our employees and pride ourselves in creating an environment where people can grow and develop professionally. And our staff's mental health is our priority. Our People Partners are very responsive to issues that might arise -particularly anything related to mental health-, and offer regular one-to-one meetings to ensure private and personalized attention and care. We encourage our staff to request extra meetings, if they feel they need it.
Our commitment to supporting mental health begins on day one, and remains throughout the employee's stay with us. And in line with best practices, a Wellbeing Consultant designs and develops initiatives to ensure that staff is happy to be and work with us.
Some of these initiatives include a learning and development program from the first day, free language lessons, a game & music room, free music lessons, flexibility of working from home or from the office, chef-made Friday Brunch, regular corporate events (including trips abroad), sporting activities, a corporate library, and many other perks that are people-centric. We care about our staff, and we love to retain our employees. Because of all this, and many other reasons, AllSTARSIT is considered “Best Place to Work in 2021” in Ukraine. Our corporate headquarters at the Gulliver Business Center in Kyiv offers a bright, comfortable, welcoming environment for everyone.