Ever heard of the quote, “If there are nine rabbits on the ground, if you want to catch one, just focus on one”? I wholeheartedly concur with Jack Ma, the visionary founder of Alibaba Group.

In a post pandemic era, we have often found ourselves in a situation where we work beyond the official 8-hour shifts long into the night to meet deadlines, oblivious of a disruption of work-life balance. This could lead to low employee productivity because of burnout or mental related issues.

A 2021 report titled Kenya Mental Health Investment Case by the Ministry of Health estimated that in 2020 mental health conditions cost the Kenyan economy KES62.2 billion. These annual costs included KES5.5 billion in health care expenditure and KES56.6 billion in lost productivity due to premature mortality, absenteeism and presenteeism. Furthermore, the report found that mental health challenges among public servants greatly affected their performance and productivity thereby leading to poor delivery of services to members of the public.

And as the modern workplace continues to evolve, the relentless pursuit of success and productivity could unintentionally make companies overlook the mental wellbeing of its employees.

On this premise, employers must embrace mental wellbeing in the workplace not only as a moral imperative but also as a smart business strategy.

Firstly, employers ought to acknowledge the importance of mental wellness by creating a conducive environment where employees feel safe to discuss their mental health concerns without fear of judgement or any form of repercussions. This culture of openness not only reduces stigma but also encourages early disclosure, facilitates intervention, and hence activates support systems thereby preventing a mental breakdown of a known highly productive employee.

Secondly, just as part of their medical insurance cover for physical health, companies should consider providing comprehensive mental health support, including access to therapists, counsellors, and resources for stress management and resilience building. Investing in employee mental health is an investment in the long-term success of the organisation.

For instance, in partnership with Chiromo Hospital Group, CIC Group facilitates wellness programs for clients and employees where anyone facing mental health issues can easily access psychosocial support internally or via a toll-free line.

Thirdly, in providing access to mental health resources employers need to sensitise employees and managers about the signs of mental health issues and how to provide support. Managers should be capable of recognising when an employee might be struggling as this can make a substantial difference. Managers should be able to help an employee facing mental health challenges access the appropriate resources to promote their well-being.

Lastly, organisations should also focus on the broader workplace culture. This includes promoting teamwork, collaboration, and a sense of community among employees. When employees feel connected and valued, their mental wellness is naturally enhanced. Regular team-building activities, mentorship programs, and wellness challenges can foster a sense of belonging and purpose.

As described by the quote, to create a thriving and healthy work environment in today’s world will require commitment in dealing with this one thing, mental health. By creating a workplace culture that supports mental wellness, organisations not only thrive but also contribute to a healthier and happier society. It is time to embrace mental wellness as an integral part of our work lives, and pave the way to a more prosperous future for all.

By Pamela Oyugi – General Manager Human Resource and Administration at CIC Group