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Mental health at workplace: how diversity, equity, and inclusion contribute to a healthier workforce

Dr. Sumedha Kushwaha

Mental health: Health is comprised of a spectrum of facets. An average human being would spend at least one-third of his/ her life, working. The workforce and its ways of getting things done have significantly changed over the years, across the globe. As society evolved, the issues and solutions also became unique. 

Lately, some attention has been given to equity in workplaces. Mind the word, equity. And it comes with two of its friends, inclusiveness, and diversity. All these go hand in hand, considering their importance in the workplace. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been quintessential for mental health matters at workplaces.

Mental Health and Workplace

As people got smarter, they sure did figure out various ways of making things better in every aspect of life, be it personal or professional. Diversity in the workplace has long been one such thing, where people have constantly put in the effort to make it work in their favor. If everyone was just like you- What would be the fun of having a conversation? How would you know another perspective? When would you get a chance to learn? 

Every individual is unique

In short- the word ‘diverse’ itself speaks volumes; the uniqueness, the make-up of an individual. A wide range of backgrounds and beliefs surely affects the efficiency of people working. What may be a good environment for me might not be as good for you, and what may be a viable resource for me, might not be the same to you! And vice versa, of course. This might sound like an obstacle, but with a little insight into the preferences and interests of the workforce, it sure does act as a boon. 

‘Equity’ on the other hand ensures equal opportunities and circumstances for everyone, considering the singularity of every individual. It promotes inclusiveness, which gives a sense of worth; not despite, but rather because of, their distinctions.

In a nutshell, sensitivity, and empathy are of utmost importance when it comes to inclusiveness and equity in a diverse workplace. Acknowledging an employee’s preferences, and cultural differences helps better understand the needs and wants of the individual, which in turn increases their inclusiveness and productivity. 

Factors that impact mental health in the workplace

Let’s just say that the idea of equality at a workplace would be like a free-size pullover that fits everyone in the family, but does it stand anywhere near the tailored fit blazer? It’s the same with workplaces.

Today’s leader knows that resource allocation is not constant. So various ways like conducting surveys, feedback, group discussions on the work environment, and themes, and brainstorming for the preferences and needs of the employees do quite the job of putting equity, diversity, and inclusiveness together. The employer, keeping the idea of equity in mind, should be accommodating and understand the fact that not all employees would like or dislike a specific thing. For instance, having an alcoholic party would for sure make non-alcoholics feel left out. 

Making the workplace friendly

Equitable access to resources is another important aspect, which yet again equates to the fact that the employer should know the employees first. For instance, making the workplace friendly for disabled employees-wheelchair friendly, separate washrooms, and comfortable seating. Also, make video representations with captions for a better understanding, as the workforce is diverse in the first place! Making or amending policies for the LGBTQ such as recognition of couples for spouse accommodation, health insurance, and things that are applicable for straight couples. All of these start with knowing, being inclusive, empathizing, and understanding the employee. 

It is not a big change that matters. Small consistent and persistent changes make people believe in themselves more. The progress of any organization is directly related to the mental health of its employees. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment forms the ground for a successful workplace. It gives a sense of belonging to the employees. This is directly reflected in their quality of work, which in turn benefits the organization too. It’s a win-win for everyone.

The author is based in Toronto, Canada, and works as a researcher for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. She teaches Research in Health Care as a Part-time Professor at the Humber College, Lakeshore Campus. She has been involved in social welfare through her charities for over a decade.

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