Are you as a Human Resource Manager or Business Owner in tune with the mental health and well-being of your staff? 

South Africa has recently been rocked by a number of high-profile and very public suicides and this prompted Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to write an article in the City Press about a “Silent Killer” that is stalking South Africa indiscriminately at the moment. 

This is further compounded by tensions between employers and employees which have led to violent labour disputes. Most recently we have seen violent incidents which have led to deaths of staff members at Clover the diary and FMCG business. 

Incidents of this nature take a toll on all stakeholders including staff, suppliers and customers and this will ultimately weigh on their view of your organization. You as a business owner have the goal of looking to attract and retain the best talent, build high-quality relationships with suppliers and do business with the best customers. 

The below is a scary graphic supplied by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group which outlines the spike in call volumes over the last 3 years

Employee Mental Health is under extreme pressure

What support do you have in place for your teams?

“To this day I can still remember being a 28-year-old middle-manager in a large corporate who had been brought in to oversee a Section189 process and receiving a phone call from the mother of a staff member who had been retrenched …. She had committed suicide in the week before. ”

This was a discussion that came up with one of our partners recently and we discussed the emotional and mental impact that this event has on teams when partners suffer mental breakdowns or worse. 

Many organisations don’t have full-blown or fully-capacitated Human Resource functions and many mid-level managers often find themselves having to act as the front-line support in these situations. These managers are often under similar stress points and may not be the best resource to tackle these kind of issues. 

Does your business have systems in place to offer support to those who have to pick up the pieces after an event of this nature?  

Is Employee Mental Health REALLY my problem as an employer? 

As a South African business owner this is a very fair question. There are finite budgets, you are trying to get your business going again after emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the reality is that there is an over-supply of labour in a relatively small market. 

In Europe, it is estimated that between 30% and 58% of work-related disabilities are linked to mental health issues and this survey was conducted pre-COVID-19. Work related stresses were effectively impacting things like absenteeism, poor productivity and poor decision-making and human error.  

We believe it can actually be calculated simply by looking at the number of sick leave days your employees are taking and there is science backing it. 

Absenteeism and presenteeism are often mentioned as examples of workplace stress but what about things day-to-day or month-to-month activities? 

  • Is your sales manager missing sales targets? 
  • Is your accountant forgetting to file monthly or annual returns?

We recently came across an instance where an employer had found a back-log of over 1000 unread e-mails from a client-support executive who was tasked with fielding client support queries. When it was raised with the consultant, she said she had simply become overwhelmed when her mother had passed away and every time she started looking at the query list, it was just getting bigger and bigger and she never felt like she had the ability to get on top of the issues. 

While employers obviously need to differentiate between non-performance and mental health issues, the above highlights why investing in your staff mental health is important part of your long-term strategy. 

The cost of replacing and re-training key members of staff is easy to calculate and sometimes it just makes more sense to allocate some up-front investment into their mental health and well-being. 

If you are interested in implementing strategies in your business to support the mental of your staff, please do not hesitate to contact us to conduct an analysis and recommend appropriate solutions.