by Susheel Agrawal
The COVID-19 pandemic had a different impact on each individual. Whether it was adjusting to a new work-life balance or losing a loved one or job, the weight of the unprecedented times was heavy and had a significant impact on the mental health of people. People occasionally are not even aware of the circumstances in which they might need to ask their friends, family, or even professionals for assistance. According to a report by the Indian Council of Medical Research, one in every seven Indians has a mental health issue. This may include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and other conditions.
A survey by the Indian Psychiatry Society revealed that the number of people with mental illnesses increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. And more chaos and distress than ever were caused by the second wave. The heart-breaking mortality rates and statistics for COVID-positive patients were shared by the daily news and other social media outlets. This was also the time when we witnessed an increase in the sale of antidepressants. According to the research arm of the All-Indian Origin Chemists and Distributors AIOCD-AWACS, sales of the top five anti-depressants in the Indian market increased by about 23 percent from April 2020 to April 2021, from Rs 177 crore to Rs 218 crore .
The Shift of Organizational Focus: Embracing Employee Assistance Programs
Organizational focus on the employees’ mental health and wellbeing was critical in this situation. The manager’s job during the pandemic was not just to make sure the team completes the task assigned to them; they also needed to establish two-way communication to understand the challenges the team faced in their daily lives at home. Many employees experienced unexpected problems with their mental well-being and needed support while working as a result of having to deal with the additional stressors caused by COVID-19. Consequently, employers attempted to refocus on or learn how to navigate for the first time — their employees’ mental health.
An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) created by some healthcare insurance experts gave managers the tools they needed to identify and address issues with mental wellbeing. The program aids businesses in identifying and resolving personal issues that may be affecting employee performance, including but not limited to health, family, finance, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, or stress issues. Through this tool, managers acquire the skills necessary to approach disgruntled workers without alienating them or crossing personal or professional boundaries.
Businesses now place a strong emphasis on the necessity of taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive one to the issue of mental illness among their workforce and adopt an EAP. However, not many companies or workers are aware that such programs exist.
When the pandemic’s second wave hit India in April and May of 2021, there was a definite change. Employers reached out to their staff to help them get through the crisis, and staff contacted their employers for advice and assistance. As we emerge from the pandemic, many businesses have continued their admirable work. They are actively destigmatizing the problem and are now much more proactive about drawing attention to the mental health and wellbeing services they provide.
Department heads are receiving more training from their employers so they can distinguish between positive and negative stress in their team members. Education materials are only effective.
Understanding the Great Resignation
All organizations globally, whether they are thriving startups or major corporations, are now most worried about the Great Resignation. India is not an exception, as the new study shows that 86 percent of workers will leave their jobs in the coming six months. Nearly all major industries would be impacted, but the technology and telecom sector will be among the top ones to record the highest attrition rate ever in the months to come.
Nearly all employees in the public sector will leave their current employer, making it the industry that will be most negatively impacted. Even more surprising is the fact that the people who will lead India’s great resignation era are those who have been at their current jobs for less than two years. The majority of resignations are anticipated from managers in favor of a better work-life balance and workplace convenience.
According to The Great X report, 61 percent of Indian workers are willing to turn down a raise, bonus or promotion in exchange for improved physical and mental health, to achieve a better work-life balance and greater “overall happiness”. The report emphasizes that this trend will persist regardless of seniority or age in all markets, industries, and age groups. A survey found that only 11 percent of workers left their jobs or plan to leave due to COVID-related regulations. The top five reasons for the rising attrition are career advancement or promotion, switching career roles or industries, dissatisfaction with pay, and lack of confidence in the company’s strategy and future direction.
“I believe the most progressive businesses are aware of their moral responsibility to prioritize employee well-being. But they are also aware of the financial advantages and realize that happier employees are more productive. Employees will live healthier lives as a result of initiatives like the EAP because anxiety and depression increase the risk of numerous chronic and potentially fatal conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Preventive care efforts should result in lower long-term health insurance costs,” said Mr Agrawal.
Elephant in the Room: Mental Health
“People tend to keep their problems to themselves because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Knowing and expressing one’s feelings can help to lessen the burden to some extent. The first thing that needs to be done is to openly share and talk about how you’re feeling. If you feel ill mentally, you should seek medical intervention at the earliest and fortunately, today mental illnesses are covered by health insurance in India,” added Agarwal.
Mental Health Covered by Health Insurance
People did not previously consider it important for medical insurance to cover psychological disorders. However, there has been a rise in awareness of people’s mental well-being as more people come forward and discuss mental health issues. Now, almost everyone considers it to be a top priority.
In August 2018, IRDAI mandated that mental health conditions be covered by health insurance. The insurance regulator has ordered all insurance providers to cover mental health as part of health insurance policies and to treat it the same as physical illnesses. The standardized regulation enables health insurance policies to cover psychological disorders, mental illness, stress, and neural illnesses.
What Exclusions Apply to Mental Health Insurance? The exclusions from the mental health insurance policy include a mental illness brought on by abusing drugs or alcohol, outpatient consultations, and recurring mental illnesses that suggest a lack of discipline in adhering to the recommended course of action and dosage.
Organizations must keep employee morale and enthusiasm high as work from home or hybrid model, the new normal is not normal. This can be achieved by acknowledging that work and personal obligations must coexist.
No aspect of life has changed more quickly in the past year than the way we work. Expectations among employees have changed. Companies that want to succeed are actively redefining their corporate cultures and what productivity means in a broader and more progressive sense. The importance of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is rapidly increasing and it is here to stay.
Susheel Agarwal is the Founder & Director at Ethika Insurance Brokers. Ethika is a new age insurtech startup that leverages technology to augment user experience in insurance.
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organization directly or indirectly.)