Depression and anxiety are thought to account for 12 billion lost workdays annually, costing the world economy close to $1 trillion
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have issued guidelines to address mental health issues among the global workforce.
WHO’s guidelines on mental health at work, released September 28, 2022, recommended measures to address threats to mental health — such as excessive workloads and negative behaviours.
Depression and anxiety are thought to account for 12 billion lost workdays annually, costing the world economy close to $1 trillion, according to the WHO.
Five per cent of the working-age population had mental illness and only 35 per cent of countries had national programmes for work-related mental health promotion in place, it stated. The global body has also suggested manager training to avoid stressful work settings and assist distressed employees.
The guidelines have been released at a time when employees are responding to hostile post-pandemic working environments with mechanisms like ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘quiet hustling’.
Quiet quitting is a misnormer. Contrary to the name, quiet quitters are workers who decide to remain in their positions while pledging to perform only those duties related to their jobs and nothing else.
Quiet hustlers are those who experience a mismatch in expectations at their principal place of employment. They may quietly start a side business.
Though it is not a new practice, there is now more open discussion about the habit of quietly handling workplace issues without an active conversation or involvement.
COVID-19 caused a 25 per cent increase in anxiety and despair, demonstrating how poorly governments anticipated its effects on mental health.
The pandemic highlighted a persistent lack of mental health resources globally. Governments globally allocated just 2 per cent of their health budgets to mental health in 2020, with lower-middle-income nations allocating less than 1 per cent.
“It’s time to focus on the detrimental effect work can have on our mental health,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, in a press release.
The individual’s well-being is a reason enough to act, but poor mental health can also affect a person’s performance and productivity, he added.
An unhealthy work culture accentuates broader socio-economic problems, such as inequality and discrimination, which affect mental health. One of the most common workplace harassment is bullying or psychological assault, commonly known as mobbing.
However, talking about or revealing one’s mental health in professional contexts is still frowned upon, the WHO stated.
“As people spend a large proportion of their lives in work — a safe and healthy working environment is critical,” said Guy Ryder, ILO director-general, in a press release.
We need to invest in reshaping the working environment to stop stigma and social exclusion and ensure employees with mental health conditions feel protected and supported, he added.
The guidelines also suggested improved approaches to meeting the requirements of workers with mental health disorders and prescribed interventions that promote their return to work.
It also offered paid employment mechanisms for people with severe mental health conditions. The guidelines emphasised the need for actions to protect medical, humanitarian and emergency personnel.
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