There is no doubt about it. The Covid-19 crisis is taking a toll not only on business, but also on morale. To this end, the World Travel and Tourism Council has just released a set of “mental health guidelines for the Travel & Tourism sector”.

Compiled to support businesses of all sizes to support the mental health of their employees, the Mental Health Guidelines build on the Diversity & Inclusion Guidelines released by WTTC in 2020, going one step deeper to focus on mental wellbeing. They will, claims the organisation, help businesses better prepare for the recovery period following the COVID-19 crisis, and will ensure that as the sector rebuilds, it comes back stronger and better than before. 

Indeed, the guidelines come at a time when mental health could not be more important. With lockdowns, quarantines, job losses and uncertainty looming larger than ever all against the backdrop of winter, it is, says WTTC, crucial that mental health support is given space in the conversations around recovery.

Research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) showed that more than one in 10 people (95%)feel that poor mental health affects their performance at work, while 85% say it is difficult to concentrate when struggling with poor mental health, and 64% feel that it takes them longer to complete tasks. 

Furthermore, research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed a US$4 return in improved health and productivity, for every US$1 investment in improved treatment for common mental disorders. 

To compile these guidelines, WTTC sought the advice of leading health authorities and private sector leaders.

The Mental Health Guidelines are divided into four pillars:

  • Developing a Supportive System 
  • Creating Safe Spaces 
  • Supporting an Agile System 
  • Exemplifying Support for Good Mental Health

Examples of the guidelines include:

  • Provide appropriate mental health support within the organisational structure to the extent possible. This could include access to professional and specialised support through the local health authority and/or the business itself.
  • Develop leave policies that offer equivalent time off and/or concessions for mental health and physical health, without prejudice. 
  • Develop feedback systems that allow employees to share if and how the current systems are working well and not working well to meet staff needs.
  • Foster an environment that respects the value of wellbeing, at all levels of the organisation, and does not ostracise those with mental health conditions whether common or less common.
  • Consider incorporating intentional wellness elements in the design of new buildings, offices, locations, and/or spaces, where possible.
  • Engage with like-minded businesses and associations to share best practice and improve support for and awareness of mental health.

Gloria Guevara, President & CEO, WTTC (pictured above) said: “After nearly a full year of insecurity and hardship that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, the time could not be more appropriate to invest in the mental well-being of this sector. Furthermore, throughout its very nature, the Travel & Tourism sector is one that brings joy to people of all walks of life, therefore it makes perfect sense for the sector to reflect these values within the workplace as well. We look forward to seeing these guidelines make real change within the workforce.”

The new WTTC recommendations echo, to some extent, the findings of a recent Global Wellness Institute report on mental wellness. In a press conference on November 9, during the Global Wellness Summit at Breakers Palm Beach, Dr Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States stated, that at no time in the history of mankind have we needed mental wellness more than today.

The study, “Defining the Mental Wellness Economy”, defines mental wellness as opposed to mental health, clarifying the key concepts and pathways, and measures mental wellness as a global industry identifying and benchmarking its key sub-segments.

Katherine Johnston, GWI senior research fellow, said: “There was urgency to this research: Study after study shows how the human suffering and economic dislocations caused by the pandemic have ravaged our mental wellbeing. We’re excited to release this study because people are desperate for alternative strategies to cope, and we hope it clarifies how important it is to promote mental wellness–and how businesses, governments and individuals can all play different roles in addressing a growing crisis.”

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