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BUSINESS TODAY 11 August 2022

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2 NEWS 11.08.2022 THE issue of mental health at the workplace turns out to be greater than one would imagine according to the third edition of the Employee Wellbe- ing at the Workplace Survey just pub- lished by misco. "More companies are putting this subject higher on their agenda, but employees too have raised their ex- pectations. We need a culture change where all stakeholders need to collab- orate in a more emphatic and com- passionate manner," Joanne Bondin, director at misco, said. misco's first edition of its Employee Wellbeing at the Workplace Survey was published in 2020, purposely to study employee well-being at work on the onset of the coronavirus, followed by a second survey in 2021 to allow for comparisons. Bondin said that whilst stress lev- els remained very much at the levels of previous years with 47% claiming that their stress level is poor to very poor, 39% also stated that their sense of optimism level is poor to very poor which is slightly more than the 34% reported the previous year. "This can be easily attributed to the 'pandemic fatigue' which WHO de- fines as an 'expected and natural re- sponse to a prolonged public health crisis'." In 2022, many employees started working the majority of their time from the office and this post-pandem- ic re-entry has brought about a great deal of changes to people's working style. Whilst expectations and anxi- eties might have changed due to the pandemic, employers and employees both need to dedicate time and effort to readapt in a sustainable manner. One of the things we sought to un- derstand through this study con- ducted through fieldwork in the first quarter of this year and featuring 355 respondents, was how employers are perceived to be dealing with the men- tal health and wellness of their em- ployees and whether they have imple- mented any initiatives to improve the mental well-being of their employees at work," Bondin said. "In this regard, 92% of respondents felt that it is the employer's role to do something about the mental well-being of the employ- ees." Whilst in 2020, 50% agreed that that their employer takes the mental health and wellbeing of their employ- ees seriously, this increased to 53% in 2021 and to 56% in 2022. But where- as in 2020, 41% felt their organisation encourages employees to talk openly about mental health problems, a fig- ure that increased to 47% in 2021, this has now gone down to 38% in 2022. When asked about how they feel at work, 75% of respondents claimed that their energy level is good to very good whilst 25% said that it is poor to very poor. This means a dip from the 81% of positive responses registered in 2021. "Mental health in the workplace has become a pressing issue and the pandemic continued to highlight the importance of having an environment that is conducive of positive mental health in the workplace," Bondin said. "This most recent survey allowed us to continue to build on our findings to be able to provide employers with an understanding of the employees' per- spective on their well-being at work." Besides an increase from last year's 63% to this year's 79% of employees who experienced stress and anxiety related to work, even fewer respond- ents (63%) rated their mental wellness positively compared to last year (69%). "If we take into consideration that 68% of respondents also stated that their job has caused them mental health problems over the past 12 months, this too should put additional onus on employers to take the appro- priate initiatives to ensure their em- ployee's wellbeing." Interestingly, the study asked re- spondents to indicate which nega- tive emotions they felt in the last 12 months. 43% experienced excessive fear, worry or anxiety, 38% experi- enced extreme high or low moods and 38% experienced long lasting sadness or irritability. Asked how stressful their job is, 13% replied that their job is constantly stressful whilst 58% of respondents answered that their job is often stress- ful. 28% rarely find their job stressful and 1% stated that they never find it stressful. These figures represent an increase when compared to 2021 with most of them citing low morale at the workplace, lack of support, tight deadlines, and long hours as the main reasons. The research also showed that pres- sure (50%), heavy workload (43%) and tight deadlines (41%) are often experi- enced at work. Interestingly, whereas in 2021 job insecurity was marked as a stress factor by 9% of respondents, this decreased to 3% this year. Supporting mental wellness Undeniably supporting mental well- ness in 2022 has been more demand- ing for employers than in previous years. Both organisations and employ- ees have gone through a considerable number of changes in the recent years, and this, has revolutionised expecta- tions and also behaviour at work. Remote working and flexibility in work time has increased in popularity and these have undeniably put pres- sure on work-life balance initiatives that may have been appropriate in the past but need to be reconsidered due to the new ways of working. Moreo- ver, employees have reacted differ- ently to these new realities. Everyone had to find a way of working whilst keeping up relationships at work and remaining productive. Respondents were asked what ini- tiatives they are offered at work, and the majority of them (47%) mentioned that their organisation offers work life balance initiatives such as flexi- ble hours, followed by an employee assistance programme/therapy (23%) and 22% mentioned that they have an open communication culture at their workplace. But whilst many companies consider well-being measures to boost produc- tivity, a third of respondents stated that their workplace does not offer any of the mentioned initiatives in or- der to improve the mental well-being of the employees. "Mental health issues are dictating a big part of the agenda at the work- place and with the immense changes that our society has been experienc- ing, employers, rightly so, are increas- ingly dedicating more attention by implementing initiatives to address this," Bondin said. "As employees too are raising their expectations, a culture change needs to happen where all stakeholders come together to work and collaborate in a more compassionate manner." 'Pandemic fatigue' kicks in as 25% of employees feel badly about their work misco's third edition of Employee Wellbeing at the Workplace Survey shows how mental health at work is gaining more traction amongst workers and employers alike

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