Connected Health: The Impact of Mental and Emotional Wellbeing in the Workplace | EAPA-SA

South Africa’s employers recognise the benefits of investing in the wellness of their employees. A high proportion of employers across a broad spectrum of industries feel that the wellness benefits they offer are appreciated by their employees, positively impact their health and well-being and create long-term value for the organisation, according to research performed by PwC.1

Employers are in a unique position to investigate the health needs of their employees and to develop interventions and initiatives which aim to maximise the impact both on employees’ well-being, but also on the companies’ healthcare costs, productivity and long-term value of human capital.1

When employees feel their work is meaningful and they are valued and supported, they tend to have higher wellbeing levels, to be more committed to an organisation’s goals, and perform better. Work-related stress, on the other hand, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is the response people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their abilities leading to an inability to cope, which may lead to physical and mental health problems, absence from work, reduced quality of outputs, increased welfare and medical spending, and reduced productivity – especially when employees feel they have little support from supervisors as well as little control over work processes.2

Organisations in South Africa are steadily moving from the traditional biomedical view of health towards a more holistic-wellness approach where the four elements of wellbeing – physical health, emotional health, mental health and a sense of purpose – are address within performance management. It is increasingly seen as important for employees to become actively engaged in their own health and wellbeing – both physical and mental – and to actively participate in strategies that promote both.
• Wellbeing refers to the diverse and interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, and social wellbeing that extend beyond the traditional definition of health. Wellbeing includes choices and activities aimed at achieving physical vitality, mental alacrity, social satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and personal fulfilment.3
• Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation, as a state of mental and psychological wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.4

At the same time it should be noted that there is still much work to do to break down the stigma around mental health issues and to provide an open and supportive culture that enables staff to be honest with their managers, and to access support.

Enabling employees to take control of their own wellbeing
There is a growing awareness that factors contributing to employees’ mental wellbeing are not just from work but rather also include personal lives, relationship issues, financial concerns and family worries – particularly as the quest for work-life balance has impacted modern workplace culture. For someone to truly feel healthy, they also require a sense of control over their own life and destiny, which contributes to a reduction in the negative stress levels that arise from feeling helpless. Enabling employees to take control of their own wellbeing is being seen to have a significant effect on improving employee satisfaction and retention, as well as helping companies attract new talent.

In their presentation on the impact of mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace at the EAPA-SA Conference 2017, Veronica Haupt from ReCode Stress and Kathryn Assad from Evolve Self pointed out that common wellness advice like eating properly, exercise, mindfulness and time management is difficult to apply when people are busy and stressed. And, that there is growing acknowledgement that a scientific approach is not always effective when dealing with the complexity of the human personality, such that medicine is beginning to acknowledge that conditions due to stress require something other than drugs.

Educating employees and proving them with their own tools for self-care can help them to enhance their health and wellbeing, manage stress, and meet personal and professional commitments.

Holistic tools for employee health and wellbeing
EAP can provide your employees with simple tools they can use to make and self-manage appropriate lifestyle modifications to take control in improving their wellbeing, increasing their physical energy and increasing mental agility and stress management with the knock-on effect of creating a healthier work environment. Tools include:

• Emotional resilience tools
Emotional resilience can be taught and the workplace is an ideal setting to support employees’ mental health in this manner. It builds a culture of responsibility, a culture of self-nurturing and develops emotional resilience in employees before its needed.5

• Mind-body modalities
 Yoga
 Breathing techniques
 Tension Release Exercise (TRE)
 Massage

• Mind-emotion modalities
 Educating and empowering employees to modify negative or self-defeating behaviours, using mind-body techniques through physical movement, partner exercises, group sharing, and lectures
 Self-taught techniques for specific conditions such anxiety and depression
 Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)

5 Source: EAPA-SA Conference 2017 presentation – Veronica Haupt, ReCode Stress| Kathryn Assad, Evolve Self

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