Study finds 66% of office-based employees experienced stress, depression and anxiety due to financial strain and retrenchment
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DURBAN - Employers are encouraged to support and focus on the mental health of employees suffering extreme stress and depression caused by financial constraints and retrenchments in workplaces.
The call for employers to support the mental health of employees was made by the Health4Life organisation which was reacting to a pilot study report released by IQBusiness on Monday, highlighting that more than 66% of office-based employees may be experiencing extreme stress and anxiety in the workplace.
Authors of the pilot study chief executive Adam Craker and Nadine Rix, the head of governance, risk and compliance at IQBusiness, revealed that 92% of employees were concerned by the state of South Africa’s economy and the possible implications it would have for themselves and their loved ones, 54% reported that they were experiencing financial strain and more than 69% were mentally affected by the state of poverty on the news and around them.
Health4Life for life spokesperson Gil Harper said that there had been a significant increase in the rate of retrenchments and an unprecedented change in the working environment which had an impact on the employees.
“Those fortunate enough to have maintained their employment have found that the 'new normal' includes late-night zoom meetings and an increase in demands being placed on them by management. These conditions will certainly impact the mental health of individuals in all sectors.
“Financial stress is a known cause of depression as well as other health conditions including an increased risk of heart attacks, hypertension and panic attacks.
“These stresses and mental health issues are not limited to employees and can impact and affect their family lives and their general emotional and behavioural traits in the home. Overall this creates an increased risk of toxic behaviour within the household. This could lead to a range of psychosocial problems that will have long-lasting effects,” said Harper
He added: “It is imperative for employers to consider better guidelines for remote working and mental health checks as part of their routine employee wellness programmes.”
Craker said that as vaccination numbers increased and people slowly returned to their offices, businesses would need to swiftly identify and respond to a multitude of unanticipated risks and issues.
“We are already seeing businesses struggle to adapt to yet another new normal.”
Rix said: “The people who are returning to the physical workplace are fundamentally different to the individuals who left their offices in March 2020. We have experienced traumatic life events resulting from restrictive lockdowns, home-schooling our children, job loss and loss of life in our network of family and friends.
"Immediate risks to businesses would include absenteeism, decreased productivity and a lack of engagement. There are practical steps companies can take to achieve organisational resilience. But the first step is to understand the problem, the symptoms and the actions required," Rix said.
According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety disorders have a significant economic impact, with an estimated cost to the global economy of US$1 trillion (about R14.9 trillion) per year in lost productivity.