The importance of mental health awareness at work

The month of May serves the great purpose of raising awareness and educating about the impact of mental illness, as well as promoting strategies for preserving mental health and wellness.

Mental health is the driving force of our productivity, of our presence, of our whole beings. When it’s stable, we have a sense of purpose and direction, we feel secure and empowered. We know that our coping mechanisms run smoothly and we rely on them to successfully handle all challenges life (and work) throws at us.


While fluctuations in our physical health are largely accepted and seen as fully normal, downturns in mental health are often buried under feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. As people around the world strive to adjust to the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic, mental health and reducing the stigma around it is important now more than ever.


Raising awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace is crucial to fostering an inclusive workplace, where employees should feel able to be their whole, authentic selves.

The state of mental health

Back in 2017, a global study estimated that 792 million people live with a mental health disorder – this already accounted for more than one in ten people across the globe.


The most common is depression – WHO estimates 264 million people, with many also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. Further WHO-led research estimated that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy USD $1 trillion each year in lost productivity. Further research showed that overall MNS disorders are estimated to account for economic output losses of $2.5-8.5 trillion globally, a figure which was expected to nearly double by 2030 even before the outbreak of the coronavirus.


The coronavirus pandemic results in serious spikes in these figures – according to a recent study by SingleCare, a US organization promoting mental health, COVID-19 has affected the mental health of 59% of US citizens.


Yet despite the immense impact of mental disorders on the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities, they are often not addressed sufficiently in workplaces. A negative working environment and lack of awareness may largely contribute to physical and mental health issues, and result in absenteeism and lost productivity.


Organizations have to take corrective measures to manage mental health at work. Regardless of the size and market, all kinds of organizations can and should guard their employees against the risks caused by anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Risk factors for mental health in the workplace

Mental health risk factors in the workplace are various as they correspond to the multiple interactions between workload, organizational values, know-how, and the social skills of employees and the leadership team. The managerial and organizational support regularly provided for employees also plays a very important role in creating a healthy working environment.


Further challenges that need to be addressed by organizations thriving to create a healthy and supportive working environment include:

  • inadequate communication and management practices;
  • limited feeling of ownership due to low participation in decision-making and lack of autonomy;
  • lack of fluidity and flexibility;
  • imprecise expectations, lack of structured feedback and objectives.



Building an inclusive workplace fostering mental health

According to WHO, “a healthy workplace can be described as one where workers and managers actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all employees”.


A WHO lead research recommends the following approach:

  • Support mental health by lowering work-related risk factors
  • Enhance mental health by building on the strengths of employees
  • Include open communication on mental health in the internal communication agenda


Building on this, a guide from the World Economic Forum suggests the following steps for organizations looking into fostering a healthy working environment:

  • Enhance awareness and monitor the working environment to enable needed adaptations.
  • Include and communicate best practices of organizational leaders and employees who have taken action on improving their mental health.
  • Listen and understand the individual needs of employees, to build initiatives that truly make a difference.
  • Ensure sources of support are available and employees are well informed and encouraged to take advantage of them.
  • Empower and involve employees in decision-making, promoting a feeling of ownership and control.
  • Recognize and reward the contribution of employees.


Research on the tangible benefits of promoting mental health estimated a return of USD $4 for every $1 invested. (Source: WHO)

Mental health awareness and initiatives at PayU

We at PayU operate under the motto “Companies don’t do things. People do”. Keeping aligned with this, we pay close attention to the health of our employees by ensuring they are continuously provided with the support they need. Further, we are constantly looking into ways to stay connected and enhance the team spirit despite working remotely. Fighting stigma and raising awareness on mental health and wellness is a major part of our internal agenda.


To ensure a strategic approach to this topic last year PayU announced Uthrive – an initiative that aims to build a culture of physical, mental and emotional well-being for every PayUneer.


A team of ten dedicated members from all across our business is the driving force behind all Uthrive campaigns.  While personal health and wellness lies within one’s own responsibility, we at PayU want to support our PayUneers in the best way we can including leading by example and sharing personal stories. Below you will find a couple of initiatives aiming at providing support and enhancing mental health at PayU.



Sharing mental health best practices

Staying true to our PayU values, every member of the Uthrive team is taking ownership to share well-being practices they have personally benefitted from. The above graphic shows a few of the practices shared in the past few months.


The mental health and wellness survey

Deep listening is at the core of our values. To build a solid initiative with campaigns that really make a difference, we listen before we act. The Wellness Survey provides us quarterly with insights on the needs of our PayUneers and enables us to act accordingly.


Counseling and support through the Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program offers counseling, legal and financial consultation, and crisis intervention services to all our PayUneers and their dependents. The program is free of charge, strictly confidential, and can be used when facing emotional, financial, legal, or work-life concerns. PayUneers are encouraged to take advantage of this service when they or their family members are feeling overwhelmed by the demands of balancing work and family, experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, dealing with grief and loss, need assistance with child or elder care concerns, have legal or financial questions, have concerns about substance abuse.



Promoting meditation as a mental health practice

PayU actively encourages employees to focus on themselves and their inner peace with a series of group meditation sessions, healing sessions and webinars. These events are a part of the ongoing Uthrive series. While group meditation sessions include aspects such as radiating love and mass healing, healing sessions take participants on a journey inwards promoting self-care and self-healing.




We at PayU believe that together, we can fulfill our shared vision of an organization where anyone struggling with mental health is provided with the needed support, care and understanding to live a balanced and truly fulfilling life — an organization where no one feels left alone.