How brands are investing in mental health and why is it important

From engaging with health counsellors to rolling out mental health breaks are some of the ways organisations are supporting employees

mental health, mental health initiatives
Over the last few weeks, not just brands but several agencies have also announced mental health breaks, Covid leaves to employees, along with a four day work week in the months of May and June.

Ever heard of the ‘Ostrich Effect’? This is borrowed from the legend that ostriches tend to bury their heads in the sand in order to avoid any danger. When it comes to the issue of addressing mental health, we Indians as a society surely suffered from this about a year back; however, this is now becoming an important issue to tackle — especially in the middle of this pandemic. Hence, brands have begun to focus on their employees and have rolled out a bunch of initiatives. Bacardi India, for instance, has started ‘Bacardi Assist,’ a free counselling programme that connects individuals to mental health professionals. Online furniture marketplace Pepperfry, through its initiative called #PepHealth, allows employees to interact with the teams through short videos on various health topics. The company has also partnered with mental health professionals or counsellors, allowing employees to connect with them directly and avail sessions through phone consultation. Meanwhile, consumer goods company Reckitt organises weekly webinars to support employees to cope with various challenges. “Through our health and wellness partners, we are providing professional support on mental and physical health. At this point in time, our endeavour is that our employees know we care about their wellbeing more than their work-life,” Sohini Dutt, regional human resources director, South Asia, Reckitt, told BrandWagon Online.

Food and beverage company PepsiCo India has a programme called PepFit aimed to ensure mental well-being of its employees through self-awareness, self-assessment and self-care interventions. “As part of this programme, we started creating awareness and importance of breaking the mental well-being stigma through online sessions with experts, created self-care spaces for employees to rejuvenate and take care of themselves,” Pavitra Singh, chief human resources director (CHRO), PepsiCo India, stated. Furthermore, Marico Limited recently announced a #SelfCare day for employees, where employees can take the day off to recalibrate and rest. According to Amit Prakash, CHRO, Marico Limited, mental and emotional health is the key to tackle the challenges of this pandemic. “Our members have time and again proven to be the backbone of our organisation. Therefore, it is our responsibility as an organisation to protect them and extend every possible support,” he added further. The company has also engaged the services of various counsellors and mental health professionals for its members.

Over the last few weeks, not just brands but several agencies have also announced mental health breaks, Covid leaves to employees, along with a four day work week in the months of May and June. DDB Mudra, MullenLowe Lintas Group, WATConsult, Neil Patel Digital India, among others are some of the agencies to have adopted the policy. “It’s time to rethink what we have come to call #AgencyLife. Lack of work-life balance, pulling all nighters every week and being ‘always on’ should not be flaunted as a badge of pride. End the hustle culture and get real,” the Bengaluru-based digital marketing agency, Neil Patel Digital India, said on its social media platform.

In an internal note to its employees accessed by BrandWagon Online, Dentsu stated, “A lot of you have been functioning non-stop, trying your best to manage pressures on both personal and professional front. We understand that this could lead you on a path to a slow burnout. We want you to be able to focus on your families and personal well-being in equal measure. Consequently, we have decided to power off from work this Friday – May 7, so that you can be with your family and your loved ones. Please invest this time to improve your well-being.”

Interestingly, a few weeks back advertising agencies came under the lens for the hustle culture after Cheil India drew criticism for allegedly asking its employees to work from office in the midst of the pandemic. “India’s Covid crisis has been beyond heartbreaking. No company was immune to ravage of Covid. We recently lost two of our employees to the pandemic. It has been a very tragic and unfortunate time for all of us but we have been standing by our employees all through out. Amid this tough time, we are working round the clock to provide necessary medical aid and support the mental wellbeing of our people. For us, our employees are our priority,” the company said in a statement.

According to Anand Bhadkamkar, chief executive officer, dentsu India, the last one year has brought in a cultural shift in the agency work culture. “With work from home and the overall pressure increasing during the pandemic, mental health and wellbeing has become quite critical. Agency leaders at dentsu as well as other networks have come forward to talk about mental health and work with mental health institutions for supporting the employees. These changes are more permanent in nature and not reactionary,” he added.

What currently looks like a small step, is a significant one, what remains to be seen is how we are all able to replicate this in our lives and in the lives of health workers.

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