Company culture

A compassionate employer also looks after employees’ mental health

Marge Litvinova
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All of us have a work life and a private life, and no matter how we try, it is hard to keep them completely separate. Problems at work come home with us and vice versa. That is the underpinning for my belief that an employer who genuinely cares about its people will see investing into maintaining mental health as an investment in its employees.

I’ll discuss in a bit more detail how we help to advance mental health at Grant Thornton Baltic and what benefits we see in it. We have over 100 employees at our firm and work for most of them (auditors and accountants) is seasonal, with the first half of the year being more busy and stressful. As an employer, we deem it important to raise awareness on mental health topics and we help them to add various techniques to their “toolkit”. 

Besides mental health, physical health is important as well. Our employees do office work, spending long hours sitting at computers. All of the tools that we can offer our employees to improve the work processes and working environment, we do. Our high employee recommendation index (eNPS) – 64% – shows that we are on the right course. That is the underpinning for my belief that an employer who genuinely cares about its people will see investing in maintaining mental health not as an expense but as an investment in its employees.

Training and offering opportunity for therapy

We started to be involved more seriously with mental health topics when the pandemic started. It was a new and unknown situation, people spent long hours working from home offices and no one knew what the future would bring. At first, we offered web seminars, offering mental health related training from different trainers every four to six weeks. Soon we added additional health insurance and 2/3 of our staff is already using it, because due to long waits, specialist medical care has limited availability. Psychological counselling is also available under the additional health insurance. In September 2023, we launched cooperation with Ojaveere Therapy Centre, where our employees can attend various kinds of therapy. About 10% of our staff takes advantage of this opportunity.

We have continued to consistently offer mental health training, MTÜ Vaikuseminutid, MTÜ Peaasjad and MTÜ Ojaveere are some of our good partners. Participation in the training is voluntary for employees but I would say that a majority of our people do attend. In general, we ask employees for feedback and positive tone is heard the most. The main thing that people say is that the training has helped them do self-analysis and learn easy to use techniques for taking better care of oneself. Raising awareness also makes it easier to notice when a co-worker needs care. So there are quite many benefits of valuing mental health, from a better workplace atmosphere and performance to reducing employee turnover.

Employees appreciate the efforts

Our employees also have a high regard for what we have done so far to promote mental health. That is borne out by surveys conducted among the employees, participation in training and use of the other benefits we offer. Sceptics might grouse: instead use the money spent on training, extra health insurance and sports events to increase pay. Naturally, earnings and financial security are very important. That is why each year we review salary levels and adjust them as we are able. I still believe that money alone doesn’t bring happiness and we can create good employee experience from different puzzle pieces that all form the big picture. 

Developments in society reflected at work

Since 2020, we have faced a number of unexpected and difficult situations: the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine. There was certainly palpable anxiety in the early phase of both crises. Covid-19 was something that resulted in big changes worldwide for a long time. It also created uncertainty about how it would impact our business environment. The war in Ukraine that started in 2022 seemed simply inconceivable in the today’s world. At such times, we share information candidly with employees. We talked about how we as a company is doing; in connection with the war, we also reviewed our business continuity plan in the event of something unexpected hitting Estonia. Still, I must admit that people, alas, get used to everything and at the moment there is no outright anxiety palpable in the workplace even though the war is still raging and Covid is also hanging around. But, in any new and unexpected situation, people crave a sense of security and need to know that the company will do all it can to cope with the hardships and take care of its employees.