Why are strong institutional Mental Health Policies good for business?

Ms Oswago is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya currently involved in Advocacy, Policy development and governance. She is also a mental health advocate.

The Covid 19 pandemic revealed the soft underbelly of majority of organizations all over the world, not only from a financial or organizational stand point but also from a human resource aspect. Unlike other resources an organization may possess, human resource is best maintained through the protection of mental health & general wellbeing.

An analogy that best describes how often mental health is overlooked at the work place is that of how differently an employee with a broken bone on a leg vis a vis one with a ‘broken’ mind are treated. They are both handicaps to efficiency, and should be addressed as such .However, one is invisible and therefore more often than not ignored and sometimes even punished.

Mental health is best addressed in organizations from a policy level. This gives employees and management a framework to encourage proper treatment. It increases staff morale as it lets employees know that the organization wants to remove any stigma surrounding mental health, thus reducing discomfort when discussing any mental health issues with their direct line managers. Finally, having a clear mental health policy can be an integral part of increasing productivity and improving the bottom line.

Happy employee, happy employer

The mental health landscape is rife with employees who are suffering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse and burn out. Employers who want to retain and motivate productive employees and consequently improve their bottom line — should be investing in their mental health policies.

It’s no coincidence that happy employees are productive employees. Therefore it is more or less an investment to an asset, with heavy returns.

The How of developing a Mental Health Policy.

Ideally, such a policy should be developed by a legal practitioner. However this is after the legal practitioner is well versed with the organizations goals and after adequate research is constructed internally. Such legal advice should be supplemented by advice from a mental health advocate.

 Finally the final draft of such a policy should be introduced to the organization, with initial training offered first to leadership, then to other employees.

Organizations should structure their mental health policies on their current capabilities and constraints. However, some useful inclusions in such a document would be i.e confidential professional help, Departmental ‘Check ins’, ongoing education and training on aspects of mental health etc.

All in all, development and institutionalization of mental health policies is a smart move, both from a humanistic and a business perspective. Human Resource is an asset, and such an investment will yield desired results for the organization and staff. Take care of your employees and they will take care of you.

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