Employers called upon to consider employees' mental health

Sbrana Psyschriatric hospital. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Sbrana Psyschriatric hospital. PIC: KENNEDY RAMOKONE

For the past few years we have seen many organisations promoting health amongst their employees through activities such as wellness day. However, most of them are focusing more on physical health therefore neglecting the mental wellbeing of their employees. Mmegi correspondent NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE writes

Omphemetse Taunyane* a young employee started working for her company several years ago as a casual worker. Due to hard work and dedication, the young woman found herself securing a permanent position in her workplace.

This was a dream come true for a young graduate, as she knew then that her life would change for the better and she will be able to take care of her parents and siblings because she was the family’s breadwinner.

“I felt so blessed when I got my job just a few weeks after graduation. I knew right then that my dreams had come true as I was going to buy my dream car, build my mom a house and help where I could in taking care of my siblings.

For the past seven years I have worked hard, dedicated most of my time to my job therefore sacrificing my personal and social life. In the long run I lost friends and became very distant from my family and loved ones. My love life also suffered,” she said sadly.

Taunyane said despite all the sacrifices she made, she saw new employees being hired in the company. That did not bother her much as she intended to work harder so that she could be promoted once there was a senior spot available.

Unfortunately, her hard work and dedication run in vain as it seemed like all went down the drain. She said her juniors were later promoted and she did not understand how and why they were given senior positions ahead of her.

“ I was never told why I was not given the position. I expected my supervisor to at least tell me why I did not qualify for the post because I was a hard worker. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

I continued working hard but I was never in a day complemented for being a hard worker and contributing a lot in the company. Before I realised it, I lost interest in my job. I was always stressed and that affected my performance at work,” he said.

She said before she knew it she was constantly sick and could not go to work everyday. She lost interest in her job and even thought of quitting but her personal life and family depended on her salary.

She later decided to seek counselling at church and has now put everything in Gods’ hands. Counselling gave her peace of mind and she has come to terms with her fate.

Speaking at the recent Business Meeting on Health and Healthy Workforce organised by UN Botswana in collaboration with Business Botswana in Gaborone, president of Business Botswana (BB) Gobusamang Keebone said it was comforting because in the past, they relegated the responsibility of mental health issues to the health sector.

“It is quite saddening that each year thousands of people across the globe lose their jobs because of poor mental health. Each year companies lose the most productive and brilliant staff members and majority of them cease to realise their potential because of their mental wellbeing.

Unfortunately, sometimes business and companies leave the situation until its too late. Often, employers only act when people are already pushed to the brink and that should not be acceptable,” he said.

He added that there were many risk factors for mental health that may not be present in the working environment adding that most of them relate to interactions between the type of work, the organisational and managerial environment, the skills and competencies of employees, a person may have the skills to complete tasks, but they may have too few resources to do what is requested, or there may be unsupportive managerial or organisational practices.

He also pointed out that risks might also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload.

Keebine further explained that some jobs might carry a higher personal risk than others that can have an impact on mental health and be a cause of symptoms of mental disorder or lead to harmful use of alcohol or psychoactive drugs. He also said risk may be increased in situations where there is lack of team cohesion or social support.

“These health consequences can have costs for employers in terms of reduced productivity and increased staff turnover. They can also have a negative impact on family and social interactions.

In order to address these challenges, we should all strive to create a health workplace where people realise their full potential. A healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting the health, safety and well-being of all employees.”

“Interventions and good practices that protect and promote mental health in the workplace include among others implementation and enforcement of health and safety policies and practices, informing staff that support is available, involving employees in decision-making, conveying a feeling of control and participation; organisational practices that support a healthy work-life balance and recognising and rewarding the contribution of employees,” he said.

According to panelists who comprised of Barclays Bank HR Director, Tumelo Mokowe and BB Health Sector Chairperson Dr Tuelo Ntswaagae, mental health should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

They said families and communities including employers don’t talk about mental health issues. They panelists called for establishment of clear policies and programs  to deal with mental health issues.

They pointed out that issues of suicide cases were associated with workplace emphasising that there is a need of mental health professionals in workplace. 

They said are ended up laid off because of constant sick leaves. He said its high time employees ask themselves why some particular employees were always taking sick leave instead of questioning their capability or health status.

They called on employees to attend to employees’ mental health issues in order to save themselves money and employees who are asserts for companies.

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