Counseling at workplace is a proactive human resource initiative
Though there has been no definition of stress which is universally accepted, this makes measuring stress difficult. People have different problems, different challenges to face in their normal life. What seems problem for one person might be luxury for another. Hence, people have very different ideas with respect to their definition of stress. Stress can be felt on physical, mental, or emotional level as nervousness, strain or tension. Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.
Peter Drucker one of the greatest management thinkers said “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event the historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, nor e commerce. It is the unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time – literally – substantial and rapidly growing number of people will have choices and for the first time they will have to manage themselves and society is totally unprepared for it”.
Different people since the beginning of mankind e.g. Parents, teachers, friends, elders, etc have used counselling in some way or the other. They would help the stressed person with empathy and lots of affection. Also, it was to the family doctor that people went most frequently. Those family doctors knew each family member and would treat the person to ease out the stress. The family doctor was like a family member who would rarely advise members to visit specialists. They were well equipped to treat.
Mental and physical health issues at work affects more than the person under stress. Managers may be able to identify employees who may not be performing as effectively as they once were. This could be because of increased workload or other productivity-related issues in the workplace, but could just as easily be caused by unhealthy relationships with other colleagues. A stressed employee’s efficiency levels drop. That employee becomes problematic which will continue to impact not only the employee’s efficiency but his/her surrounding in the workplace.
Workplace counselling thus has gained importance and momentum of late. Providing psychological therapy for stressed employees can have many beneficial effects. Counselling in the workplace can help reduce warning sign of anxiety and depression, improve mental health, lower levels of sickness and increase job satisfaction and commitment. It provides an effective method of understanding the pressure caused by occupational stress and offers a supportive remedy.
Although the provision of counselling services is not available in many organizations through employee schemes and programmes, a counselling appointment can be obtained through a GP (General Practitioner). Offering formal counselling sessions to stressed employees help them feel valued, and it also enables the individual to identify the cause of their problems and issues. Counselling can help increase staff morale, boost confidence and self-esteem, improve productivity and efficiency and create a more relaxed working environment.
Also, counselling helps people identify issues, difficulties and problems caused by thoughts, feelings and emotions and encourages them to respond and make progress towards resolution. Whilst a little bit of stress provides workers with the motivation to increase productivity and efficiency, too much stress can be counterproductive.
Besides employee’s personal life issues he/she may also face issues related specifically to the work place, such as matters like career development, discipline, performance, relating to customers or clients, promotion, redeployment, transfers, redundancies, retirement, harassment, etc. There might be problems individuals have in relating to others in the work place, either as individuals or as part of a team. Other problems may lie in relating to customers, to bosses or to those in authority in general. Bosses might also have problems in relating to their juniors. Some may agitate for job or career changes within the organisation because the problems make them unable to cope with their work. They may even decide to leave their job and this will create difficulties as new people will have to be found, recruited, inducted and trained to replace them. This is an expensive and time-consuming exercise for an organisation.
Pressure at work place and at home, lack of support system such as elders and the mismatch of expectations are the reasons for disharmony between couples & there is hostility.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has set up a network “Maitree” set up in 2005 to counsel its 30,000 employees. Under the initiative, 90% of TCS offices organize family get-togethers and activities such as ball dancing and yoga classes and theatre workshop, helping employees working long hours keep healthy.
“At Wipro, to reduce employee stress after long working hours, HR initiated “Mitr”, an in house counselling service, set up in 2003, trains employees in counselling to help out colleagues in distress.
At Infosys a peer of group of volunteers called “Samaritan Network” who are trained in barefoot college spend time listening to, empathising with, supporting and counselling fellow employees, helping them to cope with life’s challenges mostly which are personal in nature. These volunteers perform the counselling activities over and above their normal work load. So far over 1300 employees have been benefited by the help provided by the Samaritan Network at Infosys. The network members help people with severe depression, metal health related problems, and employees with suicidal tendencies. The Samaritan Network members constantly assist the Human Resource Department.
The example of Infosys tells us although counselling skills training in a work environment will help employees and staffs overcomes many everyday pressures. It can provide managers with improved listening skills, improved communications skills and effective language patterns, ability to defuse anger and frustration, ability to identify limitations, and to work with others at resolving difficulties and the skills and knowledge to minimize stress in the workplace.
The ability to counsel is an important skill for managers and caring co-workers. Organisations that have people trained in counselling will be better able to handle their people issues better than those that do not. Workplace counselling is an employee support intervention that is usually short term in nature and provides an independent, specialist resource for people working across all sectors and in all working environments. Giving all employees access to a free, confidential, workplace counselling service can potentially be viewed as part of an employer’s duty of care.
Counselling is an effective and preventive people management strategy for organizations to help employees in better managing stress, personal issues or work related problems.
Benefits to the organization:
- Reduced employee turnover, burnouts, absenteeism & accident-related disability.
- Enhancement in employee performance & therefore increase in productivity.
- Counsellor can play the role of a business partner to manage behavioural problems brought about by organizational changes.
- Thus help employees and employers both equip with living skills.