“Think global, act local!” Building an international mental health at work policy

The Covid pandemic that came into our lives in March 2020 has highlighted the importance for companies to take care of the mental health of their employees. But also the fact that beyond a local implementation, the coherence of a multinational strategy is essential.
Discover in this interview the key success factors of an international psychological well-being programme and the mechanisms available to you to take the best possible care of your teams, wherever they are in the world.

- Interview with Ketut David-Liège, Director of Client Projects

by Marta Terragnoli, Business Developer -

1) Today, we keep reading that mental health has become a priority for companies. As Director of Client Projects, do you notice any trends in the way companies decide to take well-being at work into consideration?

Today more than ever, the emotional well-being of employees has become a key issue for any company. This is not a new topic, the Covid pandemic and its negative impact on mental health has led to a heightened awareness on the part of companies. Suddenly, work-life balance has become an issue addressed more than ever; managers have had to play a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of their teams, both in the workplace and remotely.

This new awareness creates an unprecedented opportunity to integrate psychological health as a pillar of corporate strategy, both locally and internationally. We are seeing HR managers taking advantage of this new trend to promote comprehensive mental health policies in ways they would not have thought of before.

For example, one of our clients in the luxury sector decided to devote its annual meeting for senior managers to well-being at work and took the opportunity to launch a training programme for all managers in the EMEA (Europe Middle East & Africa) zone.

2) So this means that more and more companies and multinational organisations are deciding to build mental health projects on an international scale?

The Covid pandemic was unique in that it impacted all over the world at the same time and on a massive scale. Managers and employees alike faced the same challenges, regardless of location, and shared the same difficulties. Teams from all over the world joined forces and learned to work together to find common solutions. This is why it now makes more sense for multinational companies to address their various challenges at an international level.

To give you an example, one of our clients in the banking sector had difficulty promoting the use of their Employee Assistance Programme in the few countries where it was active. They realised that in order to radically change the perception of this service, they needed to make it a priority and implement it in all the countries where they operate. So they chose to implement the service globally.

3) When we talk about workplace well-being strategies, we can think of training programmes as well as employee assistance programmes. What kinds of actions can be implemented within global emotional support programmes at work?

A global programme aims to support companies with a holistic approach ranging from organisational advice, prevention and awareness raising to support for individuals.

A first dimension is to improve working conditions at the organisational level. We encourage companies to take the time to consider the impact of working conditions on the mental health of employees. A thorough assessment of the psychosocial risks in the company will enable action plans to be drawn up to prevent or reduce the risks and improve well-being at work.

For example, we are going to accompany a group in a merger process that will have an impact on 4,000 employees in 4 countries. We will first assess the risk levels through quantitative and qualitative studies. This will allow us to identify the main risks and to provide recommendations using a solid scientific approach. The completion of this global survey will ensure that policies and organisation take into account both the global strategy and local specificities.

4) Apart from organisational analyses and evaluation studies, what support tools can be put in place in companies?

Here we enter the second level of prevention: training. And more specifically, the development of soft skills, those relational and emotional competences, both at managerial and individual level. A healthy management culture, an efficient organisation and strong relationships between employees must be valued and encouraged. We also recommend the development of individual skills. By challenging perceptions and stressors, employees can improve their ability to cope with pressure and detect symptoms caused by stress at an early stage.

Today, companies often experience global changes and transformations.

For example, we are working with an industrial company that is facing a major change in the use of digital tools that will affect all of its operations worldwide. As a precautionary measure, the company's management decided to activate an extensive training programme in 11 countries to prepare the 300 managers not only to be ready for the transformation at the operational level, but also to be ready to master the tools needed to identify and limit the possible stress of all employees.

However, support programmes are also based on a duty of care of the companies. This is the third level of prevention. Numerous studies have shown that companies that take into account the problems faced by their employees on a daily basis will, in the long run, significantly improve their level of well-being. This is the case for employee assistance programmes, but also for targeted interventions following critical events with an emotional impact on employees.

5) Based on your experience, what do you think are the key success factors for companies implementing a holistic wellness programme?

First of all, to be effective, a wellness programme should cover the following three dimensions: actions at the organisational level, development of employees' skills and individual support and coaching programmes.

Taking the example of a large energy company, where employees face real physical risks in the workplace, we implemented a programme in 36 countries: firstly, we identified the need for psychological support in the event of a critical incident, so we supported them in creating an internal role of Psychological First Aid Referrer within their teams, including raising awareness of all employees through a training programme and identifying volunteers. Subsequently, we have implemented several training courses for these referents. The skills of these referents enable them to provide initial support to the people concerned in a crisis situation, before our professional teams intervene, if necessary. Finally, we have implemented an employee support programme.

Secondly, another key success factor is to have global consistency of wellbeing and mental health initiatives. A global strategy allows an alignment of group policies. A fully aligned corporate policy in all countries will increase the company's influence and foster a sense of ownership among employees. However, it is crucial that the programme, while representing the company's global strategy, is also tailored to the specific needs of the company and its employees at the local level.

When asked whether it is better to implement a top-down or a bottom-up policy, I say: between a company that relies on a strategy driven by headquarters and standardised in all countries, and one that is inspired by local initiatives, our advice is to prefer what we call a 'glocal' approach, with global inspiration and local implementation and adaptation.

6) What advice would you give to an HR manager who wants to promote well-being at work and take care of his employees?

My advice is this: DARE!

Employees need support!

Our world is full of uncertainties and characterised by conflicts, environmental crisis, inflation, endemic daily violence...

Take care of your managers!

The pressure on managers is high. We receive many requests from companies for services to support them. They will in fact be the main ambassadors of well-being in your company.

Are you responsible for human resources in a particular country?

Don't wait for the global guidelines!

We get calls every day from international HR teams who want to adopt the same local policies that they have been inspired by.

Be the ones to start the change in your company!

Are you an international HR manager?

Be ambitious!

The best way to promote a coherent welfare policy is to include it in an overall strategy and to involve all local teams in the process... taking into account the different local specificities and needs.

7) A final sentence to conclude?

"Think global, act local!

Ketut David-Liège_CARRE

Ketut David-Liège

Director of Client Projects

marta terragoli photo

Marta Terragnoli

Business Developer

With our European DNA, our 35 years of experience and our scientific approach, we place great emphasis on the complementarity between the collective approach of organisations and the individual support of employees. This approach allows us to be the preferred partner of multinational HR departments for their global mental health projects.

All over the world, we select partners trained according to our approach. We have built up a strong network of 53 partners covering more than 120 countries, enabling us to implement large-scale projects on a global scale.

An offer conceived in Europe, designed for the world and delivered locally.

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