Our Planet. Our Health

Premkumar Seshadri , Mentor and Advisor to the Board, 1to1help
Our Planet. Our Health
Our Planet. Our Health

Our Planet. Our Health

Psychological Safety at workplaces is a business imperative in the 'Now Normal" & Pre-cursor to reduced Healthcare costs.

The Pandemic has been the centerpiece of almost all discourses as we look at the last few years. However, in that backdrop, there has been a silent pandemic of exponential increase in Stress, Anxiety & Depression – SAD, inflicting the workplace.

While there is some acknowledgment of the importance of emotional health, the focus is highly tactical and reactive. On one dimension, we include mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals.

( SDG) . On the other hand, the per capita spending at workplaces is too embarrassing. In the Indian context, this figure amongst the most progressive employee-friendly companies is a paltry sum of INR 150-200 Per Employee Per Month ( PEPM).

This needs correction to something closer to INR 1500-2000 PEPM. The increase is required across the value chain of emotional health: awareness programs, continuous engagement through assessments, content, access to qualified counselors, group programs, vocationally aligned cohorts, and, importantly, a conscious and program-based 'de-stigmatization" of the entire process.

One of the myopic views in most corporates is that the spending on per capita Health coverage is increasing over the years, especially around pay-outs for treatment of "Non – Communicable Diseases" based on In-Patient care and costs for support on the outpatient side.

The former impacts the insurer's economics leading to premium escalation; the latter raises the company's spend and, in some cases, affects the employee's "out-of-pocket" spending. This is a curative spend, whereas the preventive spending of investment in "Continuous Tracking & Treatment of Emotional Risk "comes at a fraction of that cost.

While arguably, it is true that companies spend on the preventive side through annual tests and some preventive gamified activities, all of these primarily focus on physical health, and equal spending on emotional wellness is the very minimum that is required.

Quote "According to the CDC, the NCDs are responsible for more than 68% of deaths worldwide, and 75% of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. NCDs are often preceded by stress-related metabolic syndrome (hypertension, high cholesterol, truncal obesity, and reduced responsiveness to insulin).

Stress-related chronic NCDs continue to plague primary care practitioners, who, at best, can only slow the progression of the disease. This results in enormous mortality, morbidity, and suffering and contributes to the ballooning of health care costs." An exponential focus on emotional health has significantly better value per $ spent on employees.

Our Planet. Our Health
Work-Life balance

We are used to the concept of a Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body. The NCD burden integrates the idea of cause and effect by empirical evidence that a healthy mind helps build a healthy body as much as the positive impact of the proportion of endorphins in our mind by reducing body-induced mental stresses.

This physiological inter-dependence is a business case for equality in organizations' preventive and curative spending.

In the first year of COVID, the global prevalence of anxiety increased by 25%, as per WHO. Hence the need to declare "Emotional Health" a pandemic in itself or at the very least an augmented spending around preventive care.

Positive emotional health contributes to creating a Psychologically safe workplace, and inter-alia creates a healthier workplace—the issues confronting the workforce span a broad spectrum of work-related stress to personal life events-based issues.

Research data based on care provided over the years by a provider ( Courtesy: 1to1help.net) clearly shows that the multitude of problems ranges from Early Career blues, Self-belief, Relationships, Marital, Parenting, Performance anxiety, Self-development, emotional resilience, mid-career blues, rat race blues, aging, retirement blues and an overarching emotional quotient that needs attention, especially in preparation for senior leadership roles – the last one is very critical as stress at the higher echelons of the pyramid have a cascading impact down the line.

A plethora of Mindfulness solutions for emotional health are helpful but oftentimes fail to bring out the 'elephant in the room' purely because a sustainable solution needs inquiry to appreciate the issue and customization of the coping strategies to build resilience. Another aspect to mention here is that the "Risk of Deep Depression" & potential self-harm needs a qualified caregiver with a robust protocol.

The larger goal is to build "Psychologically safe workplaces" that could be defined as the function of individual psychological strength ( without SAD) coupled with a thriving work environment ( aka culture). This is the "secret sauce" of entire potential organizations. The concept of a flourishing work environment would essentially mean an empowered organization, where everyone can trust every other one so that they see no risk within the team, the ability to say "I do not know," the ability to accept mistakes as learning opportunities and above all, letting every voice to be heard.

It would be good to look at some recent data points from the corporate world during this "Great Resignation" phase; an AON study highlights how attrition rates in 1500 companies have moved from about 12.8% in 2021 to 21% in 2022, an Amazon India study showed that a startling 68% of participants were looking to switch.

A step back to what is causing this exodus points to a broad sentiment of cultural fit – a subset of psychological safety. Looking at some of the data on projected costs of emotional issues makes it hard to ignore this issue. Word Economic Forum puts the global prices of burnout stack up to Pound Sterling 255 B. On the positive side, a PWC study found almost a 230% ROI in Emotional Wellbeing, and a Gallup study found that organizations that value Psychologically Safe workplaces saw a 12% increase in productivity and a 27% reduction in employee turnover. Here rests the case.

Summary

The empirical evidence that SAD causes NCDs and the corollary that Physical Health issues can trigger SAD points to a need to have adequate focus and investment in keeping the emotional vulnerability of employees low. Adding a thriving work environment ensures a "Psychological safe workplace."

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