Tackling Burnout: How Cyprus companies are addressing mental well-being in the workplace?

Tackling Burnout: How Cyprus companies are addressing mental well-being in the workplace?

Almost one billion people worldwide suffer from a mental or substance-use disorder, and the number has only grown as a result of the pandemic. So, it’s no surprise to have this reflected in the professional context, with depression and anxiety being prevalent in today’s workplace. In fact, according to a recent McKinsey survey, 90% of employers polled said Covid-19 had impacted their workforce’s mental health and productivity, with 75% of Gen Z employees being particularly affected.

Nevertheless, some proactive employers are promoting mutual responsibility for mental health in the offices with positive results and a boost in their personnel’s well-being.

Mental health and well-being in the Cyprus context

The traditional approach to mental health concerns in Cyprus’ work culture is currently limited and mainly consists of providing medical insurance and some recreational activities for employees and their families. With the pandemic, however, many organisations started to think about how to make the life of their employees better while working remotely from home without their daily interactions with colleagues. This encouraged both local and global companies to develop strategies to support their employees’ mental health.

Some companies introduced new practices such as offering an additional day of leave for mental health or reducing working hours on Fridays to spend more time with their families. Similarly, various organisations started offering psychological counselling to their employees.

Despite these efforts, many companies remain ill equipped to address the problem.

Regardless of the challenges, companies in Cyprus can develop an integrated approach to workplace mental health, one that combines the strengths of healthcare with the optimisation of both the prevention and management of mental health issues in the workplace.

What are some of the preventive measures Cyprus companies can implement to prevent burnout?

Organisations can prevent signs of burnout or mental health problems by promoting simple daily practices to foster wellbeing and help people’s performance in an era of constant change. Organisations of the future should spend enough effort educating their employees and leaders about the importance of sleep, exercise, diet, and other perennial and vital restoration pathways such as meditation and meaningfulness.

It is imperative to ensure that the workplace environment supports employee well-being as a skill that can be learned and trains managers to pick up on signs of distress. An organisation should implement several actions such as promoting work-time flexibility, setting email blackout times after working hours, and curbing the “long-hours” corporate culture.

What are some of the reactive measures Cyprus companies can implement for the treatment of depression and anxiety?

Organisations should enhance and expand the mental health support available to their staff members, offering benefits that are on par with those provided to tackle handle their physical health. Similarly, companies should ensure easy access to resources for mental and substance-use disorders, including tailoring resources to the needs of particular employee groups. The main focus of these activities should be on employee self-care, skills building and resilience.

In-house workplace counselling may be of benefit, as well as the provision of care while people are recovering at home and formal “return to work” programmes. It would also be useful to create peer support schemes and communities to ensure staff are able to seek help early if needed, a move that should have a positive impact on their performance and productivity.

What is investing in mental health worth?

Investments in mental health can have concrete effects on employee productivity and well-being. Studies have demonstrated that absenteeism can fall by 30% due to interventions by primary care providers that improve depression management. Furthermore, 80% of employees report improved levels of work efficacy and satisfaction when treated with these types of sessions. Overall, treating depression and anxiety lead to 4x return on investment in better health and ability to work.

What are the main challenges employees with mental illnesses face?

Although a number of companies in Cyprus are promoting themselves as doing a lot in this area, they are still using the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to employee struggles with mental health. In reality, employees continue to suffer because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Up to 68% of employees report that mental health challenges are still stigmatised in the workplace, and it’s clear there’s a significant disconnect in terms of their needs being met.

Stigma affects everything from interpersonal interactions to social norms to organisational structures, including access to treatment.

In many workplaces it is forbidden to talk about it; some employees may feel ashamed to address this topic as they will be considered strange with odd needs and left to suffer alone.

On the one hand, employees want to be happy, while, on the other, company culture does not support this. Hence, employers should treat the topic seriously or watch their talent leave.

At the same time, organisations can’t shift perceptions of mental illness by fiat. Instead, they need targeted programmes that educate people and promote supportive teams. Stigmatizing language perpetuates these negative perceptions. Cultivating an inclusive work culture can mitigate harmful sentiments across teams by using a “person-first” approach and language that focuses on the person and not the illness or disorder.

One of our team members said it best: “When I feel happy, when I feel empowered, I can do a lot more. Most importantly, I manage to find creative solutions for any problem that appears in my work. But if I feel depressed, if I feel that I am not valued by my organisation, my productivity will be at its lowest level.”

Hence, employees who feel valued in both their personal and professional life devote more effort to perform at their best and remain loyal than someone who is struggling. In other words, happy employees are more productive employees.

With all of this in mind, now more than ever, it’s incumbent on companies and society as a whole to drive awareness and take action on mental health, and it all starts by building a workplace culture that encourages people to ask for help.

Elisabeth Kesterlian

Corporate Trainer