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Mental Health: How Tata Steel managed the mental well-being of its employees during the pandemic

October 10, 2021
 

Over the years, healthcare has been one of the key benefits that has helped strengthen the relationship between employers and employees. Large organisations in India and the world over have often built hospitals, health centres, and other facilities for staff members and even extended these facilities to local communities. As employee locations became geographically diverse, comprehensive medical insurance coverage also became a key benefit. With new-age tech coming in, health benefits were extended to gym memberships and other app-based programmes for consultation with doctors.

Most employer-led health programmes, however, focus on the physical well-being of an employee. Mental and emotional well-being are rarely discussed at the workplace. India is no stranger to mental health – it is the elephant in the room that we try to avoid while discussing well-being even though one in seven Indians is said to be affected by some mental or emotional distress. According to the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (2017), around 20 crore people have some kind of mental disorders in India. Also, according to the National Mental Health Survey (NMHS), nearly 80% of those suffering from mental disorders do not receive treatment for years. 

It took a global health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic to turn the scanner towards mental health as a matter of serious concern. As people started working from home and were starved of human contact and socialising opportunities during lockdowns, some of these issues were accentuated. The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a double whammy against mental well-being due to restriction of support, counselling, and treatment services for mental health conditions, triggered by the social distancing norms and restrictions on movement.

The theme selected for World Mental Health day for 2021, “Mental Health in an Unequal World”, underlines the need for improving treatment and counselling services to address challenges related to mental health.

Early Mover Tata Steel

Over the last century, Tata Steel, has emerged as one of the most employee-friendly companies in the world and is known for creating industry standards in the field of human resources. We have been a pioneer in employee welfare schemes and community initiatives, even before the legislation mandated them. A few of these include the 8-hour workday, Leave with Pay scheme, and the Workers’ Provident Fund Scheme, all of which were adopted by the International Labour Organisation and enacted by the law in India.

On mental well-being too, we have been a pioneer. We believe a healthy mind and body makes a happy human being. We want our employees to lead a happy, healthy, and balanced life which will help them perform at their best, both professionally and personally and to ensure this we support our employees through multiple initiatives and an enabling ecosystem.

Tata Steel has introduced multiple initiatives over the years to help its employees take care of their mental well-being. As a first step towards this, we launched an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in association with 1to1 help in 2014, which provides employees and their dependents, confidential counselling services. Our emotional well-being programme “Umang”, has been running successfully for years. We also run manager sensitisation programmes, employee support programmes and conduct webinars on various topics regularly.

Pandemic Response

During the pandemic, we went digital with an augmented focus on the online service delivery to ensure the counselling services continued without any interruptions and offered 24×7 support to our employees. Interactive sessions like ‘Ask the Expert’ with Tata Steel leaders to drive focus on emotional health at the workplaces were organised. “Employee #WFH Wellness package” were offered to help them adapt to the changed reality – the new normal, and cope with the psychological effects of the pandemic. We also launched Care Calls for our Covid impacted employees to keep in touch and understand their well-being.

A pulse survey was also conducted recently to assess the emotional health of the organisation. Various customised interventions are being designed based on the responses received.

In 2021, Tata Steel was recognised among India’s Best Workplaces in Manufacturing 2021. This is a recognition for both the Company’s high-trust, high-performance culture and an employee base that is happy and in good mental and emotional health.

Author:

Chief Learning & Development, Tata Steel

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