Namibia: Employee Wellness Critical to Mental Heath

Health specialists have urged employers to take mental health and wellness at the workplace seriously, because it can affect company productivity.

The experts were speaking at the first-ever wellness conference hosted by Eureka Psychological Services in Windhoek last week.

Presentations centred around the importance of various wellness programmes, financial and debt management, and health awareness.

Founder of Eureka Psychological Services, Ceaseria Matiti, believes there should be policies that enforce wellness programmes at workplaces.

She told The Namibian yesterday that creating awareness about mental health will de-stigmatise mental illnesses as more often than not, people are ashamed about their mental illness because of the false perceptions created around them.

"This would help you understand a colleague's metal health, and ensure that employers will be ready to treat that employee and bring about a culture to openly talk about their illness," she said.

Matiti added that the implementation of a wellness policy would help a company regulate mental health within the workplace.

Awareness will also help others identify an employee who is suffering in silence, and that a policy will essentially assist the employer in dealing with employees.

According to social worker Nathalie Bezuidenhout, employee wellness is a legal requirement under the Labour Act 11 (2007), where employers must, without charge, create a safe working environment which also has adequate facilities for the wellness of employees.

She said substance abuse in the workplace can result in the failure of an employee to meet work obligations.

"Employees have the duty to ensure that they are safe and healthy in the workplace, and that the safety of other individuals is not affected by their risk or addictions," Bezuidenhout stated.

Some companies have mobile clinics or just an office on the premises where employees can go to for assistance.

"For them to actually have that ability to approach the company for assistance, they must also know that their information will be treated confidentialy," she stressed.

Furthermore, there should be clear policies to guide both the employer and employee, and to protect both parties in the event of a legal suit.

Financial adviser at Sanlam, Roger Kangootui said an employee's financial situation plays an important role in corporate wellness. He told The Namibian yesterday that personal financial problems can affect the employer directly. These problems can then lead to theft at the workplace, which subsequently leads to lower resources, and decreases the overall productivity of the company.

"Financial problems also directly link to stress, and that may lead to lower employee performance and increased absenteeism," he continued.

Kangootui said employees who are desperate to solve their financial problems tend to borrow money or take out cash loans in an attempt to mitigate their debts, which may leave them in a deeper financial rut.

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