Zim firms lose $100m to stress, mental health

HARARE - Zimbabwean companies are losing over $100 million annually in wages and productivity through mental health or stress related absence from work, a latest survey has shown.

Industrial Psychology Consultants (IPC)’s National Employee Engagement 2014 report released this week indicates that the loss was based on results that close to four in 10 working Zimbabweans experience symptoms of distress representing over 43 percent.

“27,3 percent of the working population is experiencing depression symptoms while 18,3 percent of the working population experience anxiety symptoms. About 33,4 percent of the working population in Zimbabwe experience somatisation symptoms,” said IPC.

The symptoms of distress include difficulty in thinking clearly, feeling down and depressed, disturbed sleep, easily irritated, lack of energy, tense, easily becoming emotional and no longer having interest in people and things.

“Other symptoms include feeling like you can’t do anything anymore and can’t face it anymore,” read part of the report.

This comes as surveys that were conducted in most countries show that mental health problems affect businesses and their bottom lines in many ways — prejudicing global economies billions of dollars annually.

However, industrial psychologists urge employers to creative conducive working environment for the employees.

“The long-term benefits of employers pro-actively dealing with mental health in the workplace won’t just be a happier and healthier workforce, but also lower costs, improved productivity and more optimal work environments, a healthier workforce and work environments,” said a health inspector with the National Social Security Authority.

According to the IPC report, there was a tendency amongst managers and general employees alike to think that employee engagement is about remuneration which was incorrect.

“Remuneration is but one factor of eleven factors that determine the level of engagement of an employee,” it said.

Other factors include strategic direction, leadership, communication, and relationship with work colleagues, culture of reward and performance, supervision, learning and development, commitment and loyalty, job design and satisfaction.

However, IPC’s survey results for 2014 suggested that there are six factors that are weighing down employee engagement that include poor remuneration, poor communication in organisations, poor performance management practises, poor relationship with work colleagues and lack of opportunities for learning and development among others.

“Consequently, our results show that dealing with the engagement challenges that organisations are facing cannot be done by focusing on remuneration alone. There are many ways to foster engagement.

“Employee engagement is defined as ‘the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organisation, how hard they work and how long they stay as a result of that commitment,’” said the report.

Based on this research, IPC said this indicated that the connection between an employee’s job and organisational strategy, including understanding how important the job is to the firm’s success, is the most important driver of employee engagement.

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