Serein

Mental Health is Everyone’s Business

Bianca D'Costa

- July 7, 2020

I was a flight attendant in one of the best international airlines for half a decade before moving into the start-up world. It seems glamorous I know, but it is a very lonely job. Meeting new people every day doesn’t make for long lasting friendships and hectic schedules inhibit the efforts made to stay in touch. The job involves many meals eaten alone, many days spent without speaking to family back home because of the time differences and the jet lag, which is something we never get over. Understanding the effects this can have on our mental health, my organisation invested in hiring in-house psychologists and counsellors. They even made the effort to create a group called ‘Peer to Peer’ in case we were more comfortable speaking to our colleagues. The members of Peer to Peer were colleagues who had chosen to volunteer and were trained accordingly. This to me translated as being part of an organisation that truly cared about my overall well-being.

Mental Health has made its way to conversations over the years, especially in this time of COVID-19. Working from home has become the new norm and albeit its benefits, it has blurred the lines between signing in and out of work. Balancing home without house help, reduction in salaries, layoffs and other factors have contributed to the decline of the mental well-being of employers and employees.

However, mental health has been an issue since before COVID-19. According to a study by ASSOCHAM in April 2015, nearly 42.5% of employees in private sectors suffered from depression or general anxiety disorder. Their findings also showed that 48% of respondents felt fatigue on a regular basis due to general anxiety and 27% admitted they suffered from regular headaches.

How does mental health affect the organization?

1 out of 7 people in India suffer from mental illness according to The Lancet. Since we spend a majority of our time in the workplace, tackling the mental health of employees is imperative. 

While opening the conversation for diversity at work, acknowledging that mental health is as important, allows you to retain your employees, cuts costs of employees shuffling in and out and saves on retraining. But just talking about mental health without tangible action is like talking about exercise without ever moving a muscle.

Many organizations have workshops once or twice a year on mental well-being or give employees a helpline number for additional support, these are band-aid methods and shift the onus of looking after one’s mental health entirely onto the employee. Constant and consistent practices to improve mental well-being are essential.

When unaddressed in organizations, the effects are counterproductive – hurting productivity at work and increasing absenteeism. It is thus of economic value to invest in the mental health of your employees. While speaking to various Indian organisations on inculcating a mindset of  overall well-being for employees, they mentioned that it is always a good idea when the initiative for introducing good business practices comes from top management and is then built into the vision of the company.

The economic cost of not addressing mental health

A study showed how work related stress can be a huge financial burden on society. This study took into account Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the EU-15. The total estimated cost of financial loss ranged between US$ 221.13 Mn to $187 Bn. The interesting aspect was that the majority of these losses were productivity related and a small percentage of the losses were due to health care and medical costs.

Although this study did not include India, the WHO has estimated that India stands to lose  $1.03 Tn between 2012-2030 due to mental health conditions.

Tangible ways an organization can include mental health into its overall work environment

With focus on mental health being the need of the hour, here are some suggestions you can incorporate in your organization to cater to the mental well-being of your employees:

Peer to peer support: Bringing in regular professional help may not always be feasible for organizations. In such situations, employees can volunteer or ask employees you believe are equipped with a high EQ to volunteer, and become part of a team that is available to other employees to speak to. These volunteer employees can be trained by a professional to listen and guide their colleagues. In some organizations this is referred to as Peer to Peer Support. 

Support groups: Support groups with confidentiality clauses every month is another way to include the mental health of your employees into the work culture.

Awareness conversations: Many Indian organizations hold awareness weeks which include mindfulness and stress management workshops. Nitesh Batra of The Mindful Initiative highlighted how private organizations with proven practices such as Mindfulness Based Interventions, Compassion Cultivation Training can provide monthly content to make it a continued conversation and practice.

Building regular awareness on Mental Health by bringing in professionals in the field to explain the cause, symptoms and effects of mental illness. This will create awareness and allow employers and employee’s to learn to look for the signs and identify them. In-house or contractual psychologists would be another resource.

Recreational content: Some work spaces have gyms and other recreational areas, yoga and breathing lessons in these spaces are a good way to help employees cope with stress. However, taking into account the global pandemic, this may not be a viable option. Hence curating good content on mental health through articles or podcasts on wellness is a good alternative

The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 has now bound insurers to create provisions that cover mental illness in the same way as physical ailments. Educating your employees on these provisions is a step forward along with providing referrals for long term or short term counselling.

Work related stress and lack of concern towards the mental health of employees is usually seen as ‘it’s all just part of business’. But human resource is the most important aspect of business and taking care of employees is now everyone’s business.

This article originally appeared in People Matters.

More information

Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH training in India and the US).

At Serein we believe that diversity and inclusion are the pillars of a good society. Issues of inclusion, diversity, unconscious bias and mental health can affect home and the workplace in many ways. Having worked on gender and with many other forms of diversity we have come to realise that an empathetic approach to all builds inclusion. It also builds a trusting environment in society as well as the workplace. If you would like to learn more about diversity and inclusion, inclusive leadership or how to speak about empathy, emotional/mental health issues do check out www.serein.in. If you would like to conduct – gender awareness training – diversity and inclusion training – unconscious bias training – mental and emotional wellbeing trainings in the workplace do drop us a line at hello@serein.in www.serein.in

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Abhishek Ghattamaneni

Head - Financial Strategies

Abhishek is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in finance and corporate governance. With over 15 years of expertise as a qualified Company Secretary, he has made significant contributions to the finance departments of companies within the real estate and startup sectors.
 
Having worked extensively with organisations operating across multiple countries, Abhishek brings a deep understanding of international taxation to the table. Notably, he achieved an impressive 42nd rank in 12th grade under the AP Education Board, demonstrating a strong academic foundation to complement his professional achievements.

Rhea D’Silva

Designer

Rhea is the aesthetic and creative eye behind Serein’s marketing and sales collateral. She manages website content and social media content calendar. She works closely with Serein’s content experts to design catchy invites, toolkits, and company culture reports.

Rhea creates animated content for Serein’s learning platform. She is focused on understanding the user’s need for engagement and learning to create impactful content. 

Rhea holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai where she majored in advertising.

Dr. Ishani Roy

Founder and CEO

Ishani founded Serein to provide a data and research-based approach to solving DEI challenges at the workplace. She advises company leaders, startup founders, and venture capital firms on industry best practices to increase diversity and design a DEI roadmap.

Ishani is a recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2023 for the global impact of her work in the DEI space.

Before founding Serein, Ishani was a scientist at GE Research working in the Aerospace Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Brown University on developing mathematical models to solve Astrophysics problems. She did her Post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and St. Thomas Hospital in Biomathematics.

Chryslynn D’Costa

Co-founder and CPO |

Chryslynn leads the product development of Serein’s DEI SaaS tool. She designs learning content and strategic insights for companies to measure their DEI growth, and achieve bias-free recruitment and psychological safety.

Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

Bianca designs gamified learning modules for a unique and impactful learner experience on topics like gender inclusion, PwD inclusion, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and regional inclusion among others. 

Before Serein, Bianca worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates Airlines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai. She is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics from SOAS University of London.

Aparna Pandurangan

Head of Operations

Aparna is leading the finance and operations at Serein. She has also been responsible for Serein’s online platform, customer management, and marketing.

She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Faakirah Irfan

Head of Legal

Faakirah is a legal professional and expert facilitator on topics like anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Faakirah has conducted 100+ training sessions on the prevention of sexual harassment for employees and internal committee members.

She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

Faakirah is an experienced legal professional. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in law with a focus on women’s rights and policy analysis from the University of Kashmir. She holds a Master of Law degree specializing in alternative dispute resolution from O.P Jindal School of Law.

Dr. Ruchika Sharma

Guest Consultant: Gender

Ruchika assists with research and facilitation of sessions on domestic violence, sexual harassment, employee well-being, and women’s leadership. She is a feature writer for Serein’s blogs where she writes about gender, women’s history, domestic violence, and sexual harassment awareness in the workplace.

Ruchika is a published author with books like ‘Concubinage, Race and Law in Early Colonial Bengal: Bequeathing Intimacy, Servicing the Empire’ published by Routledge, Taylor, and Francis publications. She has been teaching History at the University of Delhi for over a decade. She has a Ph.D. in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Arathi Kannan

Head of DEI: India, Global

Arathi leads the design and execution of DEI measurement tools for global partners. These include Serein’s Diversity Index, the scope of unconscious bias in recruitment and promotions, and the scope of unconscious bias in external messaging. 

She has also designed a standardized tool to review company policies and products through an inclusion lens. Arathi leads workshops on inclusion, unconscious bias, domestic violence, mental health, and well-being. 

Arathi is a published researcher with Master’s degrees in Applied Psychology and Criminology from Bond University, Australia. Her experience includes working with people from different backgrounds, including refugee groups.

Thejaswini CA

LMS Platform Associate

Thejaswini is responsible for the operations and maintenance of Serein’s in-house e-learning platform. She assists customers to deliver learning content and assess employee engagement through Serein’s tracking system. 

Thejaswini is also engaged with finance and other operations to ensure Serein’s 500+ long-term partners are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law.

Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

Bhavini serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in industries like education, healthcare, IT, Pharma, and more. She has 70+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace and supporting partner organizations on the legal procedure and best practices for workplace safety.

Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

Siri Prasad

Safety and PoSH Expert

Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

Rishab Prasad

DEI Specialist

Rishab is passionate about creating long-term partnerships with Serein’s customers. He is responsible for marketing, operations, customer onboarding, contract writing, and relationship building. Rishab uses his directing and filmmaking skills to design engaging content for Serein’s social media platforms.

Rishab holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with Honours from CHRIST University, Bangalore. He has directed more than nine short films on topics like stigmas of menstruation, widowhood, and adoption.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

Kirtika serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in fintech, healthcare, business management, gaming, and more. She has 50+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations at the workplace and supporting partner organisations on legal procedure and best practices.

She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

Sharanya Venkataraghavan

Safety and PoSH expert

Sharanya serves as a PoSH external member for 15+ companies in e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, SaaS, and more. She supports partner organisations on legal procedures and best practices to build safe work cultures.

She has been involved in the review of PoSH policies, labour law compliances, and research regarding the risk of secondary victimisation of complainants under the PoSH Act.

Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Nandini Abraham

Statistical Analyst

Nandini conducts extensive industry-specific research on DEI trends in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Nandini is responsible for developing statistical models for DEI assessment on Serein’s DEI SaaS Tool. She designs measurement tools for DEI benchmarking, inclusion assessments, and employee experience surveys.

Nandini is passionate about creating engaging and impactful reports, toolkits, and playbooks for Serein’s customers.

Nandini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mathematics & Statistics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

Nithya R

HR and Compliance Lead

Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

Nithya has graduated in Commerce from the University of Lucknow and has rich experience in hiring and retaining the best talents in the industry with companies like BukuWarung and Belong.co.

Sri Padmavathi C

Finance Consultant

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Sri Padmavathi C specialises in providing accounting consulting services to companies. She helps in assisting & maintaining Serein’s Books of Accounts, GST, TDS, PT filing, financial statements preparation & audit review.
 
She holds an MBA with Finance Specialisation from Annamalai University, and has also has done CA articleship under CA Tom Joseph’s guidance.

Anisha Debnath

PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator

As a PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator, Anisha is primarily responsible for conducting sessions and facilitating conversations that enable building of safe and inclusive workplaces for all. Anisha also undertakes in-depth research into various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues that plague our work cultures today. All of this research goes into designing bespoke sessions and curating interactive learning experiences for several of Serein’s partners. 

Anisha has a background in History, especially in the history of gender and early feminism in colonial South Asia. 

Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Aseem Deuskar

Inclusive Workspace Architect

LinkedIn

Aseem is an Inclusive Workspace Architect dedicated to reshaping workplace diversity and accessibility. He is skilled in conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design solutions.


Aseem is passionate about creating environments that foster equal opportunities

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

 

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