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How to Promote Mental Wellness at a Fair Trade Call Center

May 15, 2018 Claire Ponsaran
How to Promote Mental Wellness at a Fair Trade Call Center

Did you know that mental wellness is just one of four aspects of psychosocial health? Aside from being physically fit, humans have to be also emotionally, socially and spiritually healthy. And, nowhere than a fair trade call center can provide the kind of work environment that contributes to the optimal health of BPO workers.

A fair trade call center operates within the impact sourcing framework. This means the company integrates fair trade principles into its operations with the sole intention of creating an impact on the social and economic welfare of its employees. A number of articles touching on work-related stress and what managers can do to help overly stressed agents have already been published. This time let’s go deeper into the many ways that a fair trade call center can promote mental wellness effectively among its agents.

Integrate Workplace Wellness Into Organizational Culture

The invisible wall of apathy and cynicism surrounding most health and wellness programs today can be difficult to break through, especially when these initiatives lack the support of corporate leaders. According to a small study on workplace culture and occupational health, most employees thought a workplace wellness program was nothing more than a company’s effort to reduce stress and increase their productivity. They thought the company didn’t really care about their personal well-being.

But, when the company starts embracing healthy attitudes as part of its culture, its employees will follow suit and adopt those same healthy beliefs and behaviors.

Top managers at a fair trade call center can easily show they care about their agents’ well-being. They may create an employee-centric health management program. They communicate openly with their agents on the objectives of the program, the steps and any exams they’ll have to undergo, the challenges they may face, and the kind of tools and support being offered to them to help them reach their personal health goals.

Aside from a supportive environment and a sufficient budget, a call center can also offer incentives for agents who were able to complete each stage. The managers may also reward those who successfully achieved their goals. These goals may include showing a significant change in behavior (i.e. quit smoking) or becoming more physically fit.

For inspiration, look at Deloitte UK which created an implementation cycle specific to promoting mental wellness in the workplace. The stages follow a loop which ends with an evaluation and begins again with taking stock and monitoring.

  • Get workplace mental health and well-being on the agenda.
  • Take stock and monitor performance.
  • Create buy-in for the case for change and investment.
  • Implement key initiatives.
  • Evaluate programmes and promote success.

Treat a Mental Wellness Program as a Business Process

The integration of an employee wellness initiative into workplace culture converts that initiative into a business process, which managers can continually improve. One way of effectively doing this is to apply the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Cycle of continuous improvement.
Plan: Identify an opportunity and plan for change.
Do: Implement the change on a small scale.
Check: Use data to analyze the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference.
Act: If the change was successful, implement it on a wider scale and continuously assess your results. If the change did not work, begin the cycle again.

This method becomes even more powerful when combined with another business improvement tool known as Kaizen. This Japanese strategy focuses on applying small, daily changes that result in major improvements over time.

Imagine setting up an on-site yoga class for an hour or two after the day shift ends or before the night shift starts. Such a class can contribute to better team building. It can be used to encourage groups of friends to engage in healthy bonding activities.

Acknowledge Cultural Factors in Mental Health

Filipinos are not the only Asians who show bias against people with mental health problems. But because the Philippines has a thriving outsourcing industry, it’s important for businesses to understand how they can make their mental wellness initiatives work within this cultural framework.

The stigma is still prevalent in Philippine society even in this day and age. And so, agents rarely seek professional help when they’re experiencing an extremely stressful event. They belatedly realize their mistake once they had an emotional breakdown at work. Most people will rather remain silent about what they’re going through than talk about it. Many of them turn to other means of coping, such as excessive drinking and risky sexual behavior. In worse cases, they indulge in illicit drug use.

Filipinos are naturally resilient. Despite the persistent socioeconomic problems they face each day, they continue to strive as well as they can. They were able to do that because of the emotional support they get from their core group. It could be their immediate family (if they still lived at home). Or, it can be a close-knit group of friends in lieu of their family who lived far away from them.

Based on these cultural factors, an employee health program at a fair trade call center in the Philippines can have a greater chance of success when the agent’s friends and relatives are invited to take part in his or her journey towards total psychosocial wellness. Among Filipinos, a shared experience with a group helps them cope with life’s stressors. These stressors include anything from the demands of their jobs to life-changing events, such as a death in the family.

Use an Industry-Standard Benchmarking Tool or Create One

Standards are important. They provide insights into the industry’s best practices in workplace wellness initiatives. They are used to measure one’s success or failure in implementing a mental health program. And, that’s exactly why UK developed the Workplace Wellbeing Index, which was “designed to help employers to better understand how to support the mental health of their workforce.”

But Mind’s insightful report is based on data gleaned from the workforce in the United Kingdom. Fair trade outsourcing companies in the Philippines will have to create their own benchmarking tool based on the available research. This is especially needed when they review company policies to integrate mental wellness initiatives, such as training for managers on how to deal with bullying and harassment at work. A custom-made benchmarking tool also gives a fair trade outsourcing company the perfect opportunity to match its wellness initiatives with the cultural beliefs and practices of its call center agents.

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