Agencies go the extra mile for mental health this pandemic

From counselling to medical support, agencies have been executing a slew of measures to improve the mental health of their employees

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 19, 2021 9:50 AM
Agencies extending support

Fighting a deadly battle with one of the most catastrophic events in recent history, most people have found themselves drained--physically and emotionally. If not impacted directly by the Covid-19 virus, they are either worried about their near and dear ones or simply boggled by the barrage of negative news flowing in from every corner of the world.

According to a recent review on the prevalence of psychological morbidities amidst the COVID-19, about half of the population in India is facing psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Poor sleep quality (40%), stress (34%), and psychological distress (34%) were the most commonly reported problems across various studies.

Another online Indian survey has indicated that about 40.5% of the participants have developed anxiety or depressive symptoms. 74.1% of the participants reported a moderate level of stress, and 71.7% reported poor well-being.

This has put additional responsibility on the shoulders of corporations in taking care of the well-being of their employees. Indian agency circles, reciprocating to these facts, have introduced several mental health initiatives in the past few months to make sure that their teams are dealing with the crisis well and otherwise have required help available all the time. 

Dentsu CEO - India Anand Bhadkamar said that as an organisation, it is very critical in such times to take care of the well-being of the employees and society at large. “We all are like an extended family and there are no questions asked when it comes to their well-being. Sometimes collective action does much more than a person single-handedly trying to deal with things. We are focussing greatly on reducing mental pressure -- both from work and also the general situation at large with a slew of initiatives.” 

The agency took a power off from work on Friday, May 07, so that people can spend time with their loved ones and focus on their well-being. It has also partnered with a mental health support service called Hank Nunn Institute (HNI) to provide the teams with vital support during crises for free.

This partnership is now ongoing for more than two years. Additionally, the local and regional leadership remain in close contact with the teams and monitor the situation as it develops with a view to review and add required support as people need it. 

Publicis Groupe South Asia CEO Anupriya Acharya highlighted, “As an organisation, we have both encouraged and enabled our employees to prioritise their health and well-being over everything else. Our belief is that while we cannot always control external events; we can certainly control our response to them and therefore minimise and neutralise the impact on us.” 

The Groupe, at the start of 2021, launched an expansive and full-fledged health and well-being programme called PubFit with an intention to gear up the entire organisation towards a fulfilling health, wellness and fitness journey.

Acharya added, “Very early on in 2020, we launched a counselling service called Employee Assist, which is 100% confidential and completely secure. So it was easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear or stigma and we’ve enabled them to reach out for help as and when they need it. We’ve constantly engaged with our workforce through Listening Posts and have continually taken their suggestions forward, bringing in flexible and adaptive work systems, initiatives like PAUSE,  a day when the entire office /agency is on break or Lunch/Snooze hours when no meetings or calls are scheduled or block leaves etc.” 

DDB Mudra Group CEO and MD Aditya Kanthy also shared similar sentiments when he said, “The first and most important thing is to ensure that everyone is clear about what we are prioritizing at this moment. The well-being of our people, their families and the community is the only focus. Our responsibility to help make things better for those suffering is all that matters at this time. As an organisation, we’re doing the best we can to tide through this time.” 

The Group has partnered with 1to1help to assist the employees in case of a breakdown and provide prompt mental health support and the organization has adopted a 4-day work week for the month of May. 

Havas Group India Group CEO Rana Barua quipped, “We are a people industry and our biggest asset are our employees. For us at Havas Group and I speak for all my agencies and our Senior Leadership Team (SLT), the health and wellness of the employees will always come before anything. And in times like these more than ever before. Our Group HQ is constantly in touch and is supporting us on a regular basis with any support that we require.”

The group announced a holiday on Monday, May 03 for all its employees. The intent was to give people time to breathe, recover and spend time with their family.  

Barua shared, “This was received very well across the group as well as supported by our clients and we will roll out such needed breaks more often (last Friday of the month) and also adding flexible working hours for our staff.” 

Havas Group India has also launched its  EAP (Employee Assistance Program) which connects employees with psychologists to talk about issues that are causing them stress/distress, this is one of our critical initiatives to help employees across the board.

WPP has launched a number of new support initiatives for people and communities to support the fight against Covid, to which CVL Srinivas, India Country Manager, WPP, said, "WPP has launched a global COVID-19 relief fund to provide direct support for our people and their families in India as well as the wider communities. We will be matching donations given to the partner organisations of our India charitable arm, the WPP Foundation in India - including Magicbus India Foundation, Learning Links Foundation and Americares India Foundation as well as the WHO Foundation’s Go Give One campaign, which WPP is helping to deliver.  It's a challenging time for all and to provide further ease of mind for our WPP colleagues who are working abroad but have family locally, we will also be extending some supporting resources to their India-based families. To date we have also been hosting weekly townhalls with partners and medical experts to share health practices and practical resources with our teams, including emergency and medical services. We are also encouraging our people and their dependents to be vaccinated where possible and are committed to covering their vaccination costs. While the pandemic has been difficult for many, it's immensely encouraging to see our teams actively working to support each other and their communities in this time of great need."

Not just mental health, these organisations are also extending support in the form of medical intervention, wherever required as well. Here is an agency-wise snapshot of initiatives taken: 

Dentsu International India

--Dedicated 10-day pandemic leave with an option to extend to a further ten days if required

--Upgraded health insurance policies to include Covid-19 coverage

--‘In-house’ doctor for tele-consultations 

--Partnered programme with a pharmaceutical chain that has 4,000 stores across India to provide discounted medicines

--Partner programme with a hotel chain who can provide safe isolation services at any of their hotels for anyone that requires it

--Some of the agencies are also offering five-day vaccination leave to mitigate any side effect

Publicis Groupe 

--Setting up a ‘round-the-clock task force’ to ensure employees and their families get the necessary help they need at this time.

--Direct line to a doctor by phone, 24 hours a day

--Augmented sick leave and healthcare coverage to cover any COVID Care treatment received at home through the health insurance provider.

--Task Force has entered into contracts with a number of healthcare providers. This will allow employees and dependents to gain better access to a large network of hospitals and healthcare facilities across India. Helps employees get vaccinated at a location near them.

--The cost of vaccination for employees and dependents will be covered by the Groupe.

--Announcement of the Community Channel, a platform for employees to share information, and help, with a support line.

--Providing support with hotels and other accommodations for employees in need of a safe space to quarantine.

--24X7 Counselling support and comprehensive wellness solutions to assist in mental and emotional wellbeing

DDB Mudra Group

--15 days of additional leaves for those who are affected by Covid

--All vaccination costs to be borne by the organisation

--Vaccination leave based on employee requirement 

--Updating live verified medical resources in tough situations

--Policies such as compulsory leaves and tools like Asana and Weekend Trackers aim to maximize productivity and safeguard time

Havas Group India

--Supporting the entire vaccination drive for employees and their immediate family members

--Supporting and encouraging our staff with leaves as when required – vaccination day + 1, if someone falls ill or goes through the recovery phase, has any emotional breakdown, family emergency among others. We understand and thus we encourage.

--A confidential email support — HAVAS VOICE that provides employees the platform to anonymously speak up and raise concerns when they experience or hear about behaviour that is in conflict with the philosophy stated in our codes.


--Reimbursing Covid-19 vaccination cost for all staff members

--Direct assistance to the staff personally impacted; including access to help desks for information about resources and services

--Partnerships to provide teleconsultation with medical providers, on-call doctor services, diagnostic services, blood/plasma provision and medicine delivery

--24/7 access to a network of ambulances across 100 cities with professionals that provide life support and cardiac care, as well as services that help find hospital bed availability for coronavirus patients

--WPP’s global Employee Assistance Programme to provide counselling and wellbeing resources


--Dedicated Covid-19 safety microsite -- providing necessary assistance to employees

--Working with third-party providers to get vaccinations to its employees, or help them to access vaccinations through their healthcare providers 

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