Why offices now need mental health experts on board

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Dubai - An analysis by McKinsey reveals the pandemic could result in a potential 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of behavioural health conditions.


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

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Published: Fri 29 Jan 2021, 4:43 PM

Mental health specialists top the list of LinkedIn Jobs on the Rise in 2021. These are among the top 15 jobs that will remain in high demand post-pandemic.

Come to think of it, it’s not much of a surprise, considering how the preexisting mental health challenges have been exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 crisis worldwide, spurring on organisations across sectors to get mental health specialists on board.

An analysis by McKinsey reveals the pandemic could result in a potential 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of behavioural health conditions.

“It’s true. We are seeing a considerable rise in the number of people talking about their mental health openly,” says Ananya A., a senior HR executive. “We are a small organisation but that doesn’t make us any different or immune to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Since we didn’t have any counsellor on board, employees often reached out to us, expecting us to offer suggestions, solutions to their problems, which weren’t necessarily HR-related. The pandemic has affected the behavioural health and the productivity of employees.”

Even before the Covid-19 crisis, behavioural health problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression were widespread, constituting a leading cause of diminished well-being and exacting an enormous toll in the form of absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare costs, notes the McKinsey report.

In fact, in 2019, before our world was turned upside down by the pandemic, the World Health Organisation had labelled employee burnout a medical condition, noting that its cause is chronic workplace stress.

Research shows that workplace stressors — such as long hours, economic insecurity, work–family conflict, and high job demands, coupled with low job control — are as harmful to health as secondhand smoke. This causes organisations billions. And now the pandemic has only made the situation worse.

Access to mental health resources and attitudes about mental health are almost certainly improving in companies worldwide, including the UAE. “Companies are recognising the costs associated with not addressing employees’ mental health issues,” says Tim Brook, a counselling psychologist.

A report titled ‘Mental health in the workplace: The coming revolution’ notes that there has been a shift from a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach to mental health in the workplace to ‘do ask, do tell, let’s talk.’

“The growing emphasis that companies place on controlling their self-insured healthcare costs points directly to investing in mental health interventions. That’s because mental health prospectively predicts the incidence of serious—and expensive—medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and coronary artery disease...There is a coming revolution in how companies (and public-policy makers) think about, talk about, and cope with all forms of mental health issues,” says the report.

“If companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.”

“It isn’t a taboo subject anymore,” says Brook. “Discussions on mental health had started becoming much more frequent at workplaces. The pandemic has allowed it to become more open. The workforce, whether in the West or any Asian country, expects employers to take mental health issues seriously. They want support and assistance. This reflects in the LinkedIn jobs report, too, placing mental health specialists and counsellors in high demand.”

The personal toll of unaddressed mental health issues on employees, and the concomitant financial cost to companies, can arguably be eased if a greater proportion of workers who need treatment are able to receive it. While a lot of big corporations have been actively looking at having mental health specialists on board, smaller firms can benefit immensely, too.

Most of the research on the costs and benefits of treatment has been done on employees with depression. The studies have found that when depression is adequately treated, companies reduce job-related accidents, sick days, and employee turnover, as well as improve the number of hours worked and employee productivity. The fact that a number of multinational insurance companies are no longer denying coverage to patients with schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental illness is a sign that such issues need greater attention.

How to prevent a burnout at work

>Increase or maintain job control

>Increase or maintain supervisor social support

>Increase or maintain co-worker social support

>Seek feedback

>Do tasks that energise you

>Reduce hindering job demands

On a personal level

>Take care of your physical health

>Pay attention to your psychological wellbeing

>Engage in relaxing activities

SOURCE: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

15 jobs on the rise

>Professionals on the frontlines of e-commerce

>Loan and mortgage experts

>Healthcare supporting staff

>Business development and sales professionals

>Experts in workplace diversity

>Digital marketing professionals


>Education professionals

>Digital content creators

>Professional and personal coaches

>Specialised engineers

>Mental health specialists

>User experience professionals

>Data science specialists

>Artificial Intelligence practitioners

SOURCE: LinkedIn Jobs on the Rise report


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