EU Directive: Companies to send their employees to therapy. Specialist: “People orientation will be the standard”

One in two employees in the European Union has faced depression or anxiety, according to the latest Eurobarometer. This is precisely why member countries could be obliged to take measures to protect the mental health of employees.

How Companies Can Be Forced to Manage Workplace Stress – Photo Pexels

The European Union is asking employers to pay more attention to the mental health of employees. The EU Health and Safety Framework Directive requires “the duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in all aspects related to work“. Specifically, the European Union calls for adequate and effective prevention to be ensured, for people to have access to affordable good mental health care and treatment, and to be reintegrated into society after recovery.

European reports show that 46% of citizens have had an emotional or psychosocial problem in the last 12 months, and 89% agree that promoting mental health is as important as promoting physical health.

Employers should be required to assess psychosocial risks internally, in cooperation with their employees, and pay particular attention to potentially vulnerable employees“, while “external health and safety inspectors should be given clear guidance for psychosocial risk assessments“, according to the Endstress platform, which is asking the European Union for clearer rules regarding the mental health of employees.

For her part, MEP Kim van Sparrentak highlighted, last month, that “people need to be protected at work, so we need to set strong rules“.

Europeans, increasingly affected from a psychological point of view

In 2022, almost half of young people in the EU (49%) reported unmet need for mental health care, compared to 23% of the adult population. Another European research shows that 30% of Romanian employees feel tired and overworked at work. Moreover, surveys show that 8 out of 10 Romanians need a psychologist at work.

Thus, employers can prevent psychosocial risks in the workplace if they eliminate problems related to the organization of work, i.e. poor management, poor work design or inappropriate matching of workers' knowledge and skills to assigned tasks.

In addition, employers can prevent workplace stress by promoting mental health. Thus, they can focus on programs to increase the adaptability of employees, on avoiding overwork of employees and on a healthy work environment.

The MENSANA guidecarried out in collaboration with the Trimbos Institute of Mental Health and Addictions (Netherlands), for mental health and well-being at work recommends a five-step approach for employers: Engage, Analyze, Think Strategically, Implement and React. Programs aimed at stress management, relaxation methods, improving social skills, fitness, are mentioned in Guide to promoting mental health in the workplace to ensure the well-being of the employee.

First, the problems should be found through needs assessments, and then an action plan should be developed to solve them. Basically, the employees should be informed to know the issues related to stress and how it can affect them, and then social activities and relaxation sessions should be organized during the program. It would help the most “facilitating access to specialized counseling services outside the company“, says the guide.

Maybe that's why the number of companies that offer therapy sessions to employees has increased by 30%, according to data from a network of medical services in Romania.

More productive work

Employer-paid counseling would benefit both the company and the employer, according to psychologist Keren Rosner.

As always, the employer thinks first of all about him, considering that there is a mental balance of each employee and that he intervenes at an early stage when there are certain problems, this will lead to an efficiency, to a much higher yield of the company . A person who goes through an existential crisis, a trauma or chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, decreases his productivity, yield, implicitly has a much lower involvement at work, but also influences those around him. In general, there is a flow, and if one person is not effective, sufficiently present or absent, it will affect several departments, several people. And then this approach is very well thought out. It is also beneficial to the employee, because he has the possibility to immediately intervene, he will no longer be a blame, he will no longer be a problem and he will no longer be labeled that person who starts doing therapy and who implements some changes, he will be a normality“, psychologist Keren Rosner explained to “Avevarul”.

This shows that there are also problems in small companies. “There are also some small companies where employees can be overworked because they do a lot of things because there are few employees. They feel wronged, that they don't get enough for the effort they put in, and they accumulate frustrations“, states the specialist.

People orientation could become the standard

For her part, Rodica Obancea, specialist in Career Management and founder of a company that offers consultancy in this field, emphasizes that there are many companies in Romania that offer coaching, psychotherapy and counseling services, especially multinational companies.

They are attentive to the organizational culture, to the health of employees, that is, they pay attention to people. There is a wider range of benefits that employers can provide, from legal services to psychotherapy, and there are people for whom these services make a difference. Such services can show that a company offers a healthy environment, that the employee matters and can develop“, says Obancea.

At the same time, taking care of the mental health of the employee brings an additional cost to the company, and this could become a “norm in the future“.

Obviously it's an extra cost. Labor costs in Romania there are high costs, it is no longer a country with a low labor cost, as was the country brand some years ago. The employer already has a heavy burden fiscally speaking, to which all the other benefits are added. Any benefit represents an investment that the company makes, and that investment should bring a return, an investment, otherwise, from a pragmatic perspective, it would be money thrown out the window. It could become mandatory as the labor market evolves, that is actually changing. It is increasingly difficult to find and retain skilled labor. People orientation will be the standard, the norm, because otherwise companies will have no one to operate with“, states the career consultant.

Every individual must understand that the professional side is part of life, it is very important, but it is not the only important thing, every individual should have hobbies, have relationships and activities outside of work. Otherwise, you will end up tired, you will run out of resources, challenges, you will end up with insomnia, depression, anxiety, you will be afraid of losing your job.“, concludes psychologist Keren Rosner.