Anxiety, stress, depression as well as drug and substance abuse rank among the most common mental health problems at the work place.
KAMPALA - Today's typical workplace demands consistent high levels of productivity and performance, with workers accorded hardly any sufficient breaks during working hours.
Yet, being desk-bound for hours on end has an effect on the lives of employees.
It is from this realisation that leading insurance broker, Minet Uganda Limited, has launched an Employee Wellness Campaign to promote healthy living among workers.
Maurice Amogola, the insurance broker's chief executive officer, talked of the pressure in workplaces.
Globalisation and changes in technology, he said, means that millennials, who make up the largest workforce percentage, are under immense pressure to deliver on unrealistic targets year on year, which has significantly affected their lives.
“It is a commonly accepted fact that adults spend a third of their lives at work. So it is imperative that management actively contributes to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of employees," said Amogola at the launch of the campaign in Kampala.
"A healthy workforce has a direct effect on the overall performance of a business,” he told human resource managers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in May this year that burnout had become a global disease. The condition was closely associated with the workplace, resulting from chronic stress that had not been managed well.
A study by WHO revealed that depression and anxiety cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion (sh3.7 quadrillion) each year in lost productivity.
The organisation said that for every $1 (about sh3,700) put into scaled-up interventions for common mental disorders, there was a return of $4 (about sh14,000) in improved health and productivity.
Joseph Mwangi, the Minet Kenya wellness manager, said anxiety, stress, depression as well as drug and substance abuse ranked among the most common mental health problems at the workplace.
“Today’s business world is highly competitive, with a lot of demand on employees to hit ever-rising targets. This is a precursor for anxiety and other dangerous mental illnesses,” he said.
Minet Uganda carried out a study of 113 companies in the country, through the Human Resource Association of Uganda, aimed at finding out whether workplaces had wellness and employee assistance programmes in place.
More than half (58%) of the companies had no wellness programmes. Of those that had, 78% of them lacked a component on mental health and stress management. Also, 84% of these businesses had never trained their managers and team leaders in understanding workplace mental health.
“As risk advisors, Minet has designed programmes that will help workplaces assist employees to cope with stress, anxiety and depression," said Jennifer Male, the healthcare manager at Minet Uganda.
"Our interventions involve a health risk assessment, counseling, trainings, capacity building, occupational health safety programs, physical activity, nutrition programmes and financial literacy classes," she added.
Pepe Minambo, a strategy and culture transformation consultant from Motivator Africa, says workplace culture including, emotions, the energy, the warmth, relationships and the attitude of the people, is one of the most competitive employee benefits an employer can have.
“Culture is how things work, how people behave, how things are done," he said.
"If you get the culture right, the rest will fall in place. A recent study said culture is as important as strategy in business performance. If data is the new oil, culture is the new strategy,” said Minambo.
Adding: “All great organisations became great not because of strategy – which is a cheap document that can be copied – but because of culture.”
Motivator Africa is partnering with Minet to help companies develop workplace culture.
Butabika Hospital-based psychiatrist Dr. Hillary Kuteesa cautioned management against engaging punitive measures against underperforming employees. Instead, they should encourage them to improve their health and performance through thoughtful and educative engagements.
“It is better to motivate them to take personal responsibility for their health and make sustainable changes rather than harshly telling them off," he said.
The depression burden in Uganda now stands at over 1.4 million people, with the global statistic standing at 300 million, revealed Kuteesa, who attributed this to overwhelming pressure at the workplace.
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