Along with the growing number of psychological problems among the people, Czech employees place more and more emphasis on benefits related to mental health support. They even begin to play a significant role in choosing a new employer. This year’s survey by the ABSL association, which brings together companies from the business, IT and customer services sector in the Czech Republic, showed that 60% of companies already provide mental health support programs to their people. This is an increase of 15 percentage points year-on-year.
Overwork, the covid pandemic and the isolation associated with it, fears about the war in Ukraine and rising prices – all this is behind the current increase in depression, anxiety disorders and addictions. According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health, the number of people suffering from mental illness is increasing by roughly two percent every year. In the Czech Republic, 10% of Czechs are entrusted to the care of specialists with some form of mental illness. However, the percentage of the population struggling with mental health problems will actually be much higher.
According to professional psychologists from Coaching Systems, over the past two years, the number of people who come with anxiety states has almost tripled, and those who struggle with depression has doubled. Up to half of managers are at risk of burnout.
“Among the problems I regularly encounter are also stress disorders, attention disorders and sleep disorders – especially in connection with the overload and overuse of the home office. The first aid for stress and burnout is to lighten the load and spread out the work, possibly delegating or changing the workload. In addition, training in relaxation techniques and discussion of the meaning of work as well as revision of life values,”
says Norbert Riethof for Coaching Systems.
Employees need support and help without having to tell each other about it
These alarming numbers, along with the worsening availability of professional care, are leading a growing number of employers to implement programs to support the mental health of their workers.
“It’s important that all these issues are talked about openly and that people are able to recognize their symptoms not only in themselves but also in those around them,”
explains Jonathan Appleton, director of the ABSL association, adding:
“First aid training is common in businesses in case of various injuries, but probably few would be able to react, for example, in case of a panic attack of one of the colleagues. Many people also do not ask for help or cannot identify the symptoms. In addition to the mental health support benefits themselves, many employers in our sector also introduce, for example, special training for managers to teach them to recognize that someone in their team is suffering psychologically.“
Benefits to support the mental health of their employers are currently provided by 60% of companies from the business, IT and customer services sector. At the same time, it is not just about previously widespread and popular mindfulness programs, but often also about the possibility of confiding your problems to professional psychologists or coaches. This benefit is evaluated very positively by the employees. The reason is also anonymity – the employer does not have to know that they have used the given help.
“We can see from various surveys that when choosing a new job, the trend is to also consider the employer’s wellbeing strategy. So our sector is going in the right direction,”
says Jonathan Appleton.
Psychologist on the phone and methods of assertive behavior
There are many ways employers can support their people in the area of mental health. For example, in the business services center of the international bank KBC, which already employs over 1,000 employees in the Czech Republic, they provide so-called healthy weeks as part of prevention with various workshops and lectures for the prevention of burnout syndrome. Also important is their “Mind Matters” program, where they offer their employees sessions with professional psychologists. Coaches then most often discuss with employees their personal problems, symptoms and prevention of burnout syndrome, and also register interest in methods of assertive behavior in the workplace.
Pure Storage, which operates its research and development center in the Czech Republic, offers a similar program to its employees and even their family members.
“To help our employees and their families cope with problems such as stress, anxiety, depression or burnout, we provide them with access to a helpline that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is part of our Behavioral Health and Employee Assistance program, which also includes individual therapy or coaching in the field of mental health, various wellness programs and the possibility to use self-care mobile applications that guide employees to regular rest and physical activity. Everyone has free access to up to 20 coaching or therapy sessions a year,”
explains center director Paul Melmon.
Minority support also helps
The support of different cultural groups in the workplace is also related to mental health. For example, KBC Global Services supports new parents and helps them to combine parenting and working life. Also important is the support of the LGBT+ community, which KBC supports during coming-outs and integration into the collective.
“The fact is that there are many things we can do in mental health, but some of them are still stigmatized. It is more important than ever that employers support employees in reducing the risks of stress, burnout or depression,”
says Violeta Malár Momiroska for KBC Global Services.
Employers who are able to communicate openly and help their people solve their problems contribute not only to a healthier work environment, but also to the destigmatization of mental illnesses and the removal of taboos across society.