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The Importance of Mental Health in The Workplace

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Mental health is something that everyone has. It is the way we think, feel and also our ability to deal with ups and downs in our lives. It is just the same as physical health in that we need to keep ourselves fit and seek appropriate help as early as possible in case of any problem. Your mental health can fluctuate with changes in circumstances and as you move through different phases in your life.

Therefore, it is important that we all take the necessary steps to improve it and build resilience through self-care.

Mental health at work

For many people, work forms a large part of their lives. That adults spend roughly one-third of their lives at work is a fact. During this time, it is very likely that they experience a spectrum of mental and physical health.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people globally suffer from depression and many of these are also suffering from symptoms of anxiety. While work is considered good for mental health, a negative working environment may lead to mental and physical health problems.

WHO notes that harassment and bullying at the workplace are commonly reported causes of work-related stress that can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.

Statistics

Although it can often be a taboo topic, especially at work, employees seem to want their employer to champion mental health and well-being. In a survey carried out on office workers in July 2018 by Peldon Rose:

  • 72% of employees want employers to champion mental health and well-being.
  • Nearly three-quarters of workers say they want their employers to champion mental health and well-being in the workplace. This is rated as more important than equality (48%), sustainability (38%) and diversity (31%).
  • This is the case for all generations, who prioritize mental health and well-being above all other causes – Gen Z (76%), Millennials (73%), Gen X (75%), Baby Boomer (56%).

Risk factors

Many workplaces present a number of risk factors for mental health. Most of these relate to the support available for employees to work, the skills and competencies of employees, and the interactions between type of work, the organization, and the managerial environment. These risks as listed by WHO include:

  • Low levels of support for employees
  • Poor communication and management practices
  • Inflexible working hours
  • Inadequate health and safety policies
  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives
  • Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work

Warning signs

The Shaw Mind Foundation, which is a supporter of mental health in the workplace, lists some behavioral changes that may be warning signs for employers to look out for in their employees:

  • Unexpected and sudden changes in mood
  • A decrease in work rate, missing deadlines, and deliverables
  • Inability to focus
  • Anxious and fidgety behavior
  • A sudden reduction in the quality of work produced
  • Repetitive questions

While the above behaviors may point to someone struggling with their mental health, they can also be signs that they are dealing with other issues. Therefore, it is important to have an honest conversation with an employee with respect to their privacy boundaries to avoid wrong assumptions.

Supporting mental health at work

In lieu of this information, there are changes that organizations and businesses can implement to support mental health and well-being at work. Here are some suggestions from the foundation for employers:

  • Provide support services and staff members that are trained to deal with in mental health and workplace stress. Make sure employees are aware of the availability of this support
  • Enforce working hours. This can be done by limiting out-of-hours work and out-of-hours email access
  • Set attainable deadlines and spread workloads equally and fairly across teams
  • Promote healthy eating and regular exercise
  • Where possible, avoid isolated work. If they are working from home, make sure to check in regularly

Conclusion

It is very important for organizations to ensure their employees are educated about mental health to avoid cases of mental breakdowns, reduce suicide risk and prevent burnout. Companies need to effort to invest in their employees’ mental health to establish a positive work environment where people will want to work.

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Business

Optiven Foundation Feted For Transforming Lives Across Kenya

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Optiven Foundation has been feted for it’s role in transforming the society. This was at The Voice Awards held at the Louis Leakey auditorium in Parklands Nairobi on 16th August 2019. The event which was the first to be held in Kenya by it’s owners based in Netherlands, attracted a number of dignitaries and was officially addressed by the Deputy President Dr. William Ruto.

The award to Optiven Foundation was received by the Optiven Group General Manager, Mary Wacukah who is also a trustee of the Optiven Foundation. Speaking shortly after receiving the award Mrs. Wacukah “this award is a true reflection of what the foundation stands for which is to make a difference in the lives of the community.

” She commended all those who support the endeavors of the foundation which she noted has been a great input towards ensuring that the community we live in is a better place saying, “The Optiven Foundation is supported by Optiven Limited and well wishers who come together to ensure that our brothers and sisters live in dignity and their lives are transformed.

Truly when giving you do not just do it for the other person, but it also teaches us to be grateful for what we have.” While appreciated the trustees and philanthropists, she added that the foundation is wholly supported by Optiven Limited where 5% of all profits from real estate are used to cater for the myriad needs of the Optiven Foundation.

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Mrs. Wacuka was accompanied at the event by the Chairman of Optiven Foundation, Mr. George Wachiuri, Ms. Jerusha Abasalom – the Diaspora Manager, top associates of Optiven Limited and who are also philanthropists in their own right Mr. James Mugo and Mr. John Owiro and Ms. Joyce Njambi, the team leader for the Optiven Foundation among others.

Ambassador Pastor Elvis Iruh, the founder of The Voice Magazine in the Netherlands and who partners with Moving Minds Africa to bring the award to Kenya congratulated the team from Optiven Foundation saying their impact in society cannot be underestimated. Ambassador Iruh further noted that the team from Optiven had been receipient of another award which was bestowed to the Chairman Mr. George Wachiuri in 2019 at the Le Koning Hotel at the Hague in the Netherlands in 2018.

He added that both Mr. Wachiuri and the Optiven Foundation had been leaving print marks in the lives of people across the world with the work they are doing in transforming lives through philanthropy. He singled out the efforts to renovate and rehabilitate children living at the Soweto Children’s Home in Kayole where the Optiven Foundation has built classrooms and dormitories as well as provided the daily needs for the children who are fully dependent on the foundation.

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ABOVE: Partners visiting with the Optiven Foundation ahead of The Voice Awards ceremony at the Louis Leakey Auditorium on 16/8/2019

The Optiven Foundation works with the less fortunate in society in order to make their lives better.  Since it’s inception, the foundation has worked in the areas of environment, health and education among others. With key partnerships with different counties, the foundation has been involved with various cleanups including in Kajiado County and Nairobi County.

In adherence to the UN Millenium Development Goals, the Optiven Foundation has adapted environmentally friendly models on all it’s projects including use of biodigesters to save on water, afforestation to increase forest cover as well as participating in community projects that ensure sustainability. With regard to education, the Foundation launched the Soaring Eagles Program with the key mandate to provide opportunities for education for students who have challenges in paying for their education but are keen on performance.

Over the years, Optiven Foundation has given scholarships to students across the country and in every country. On matters health, the Optiven Foundation has provided support to communities through hosting medical camps, monetary support to cover health matters, civic education on the importance of insurance especially covering medical matters as well as community facilitation to persons living with disability. Through it’s Mobility that Brings Smiles campaign, Optiven Foundation has been able to partner with different associates to provide those living with disability with wheelchairs.

Through partnerships with individuals of good will, the foundation has since donated wheelchairs to deserving cases in Nairobi County, Nyeri County, Machakos County and Kiambu County. As the need for the said wheelchairs is immense the foundation is seeking partners to further spread the mobility that brings smiles through enabling persons living with disability to be able to be mobile.

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UN Appoints Uganda’s Winnie Byanyima as UNAids Executive Director

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The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has appointed Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima as the UNAIDS Executive Director and United Nations Under-Secretary-General. Her appoinmtment follows a comprehensive selection process that involved a search committee constituted by members of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board. The UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations made the final recommendation on the appointment to the Secretary-General.

Ms Byanyima has been the Oxfam executive director for six years since her appointment in January 2013. She takes over the UNAids roles from Malian Michel Sidibé who stepped down in May, following accusations of serious mismanagement. Mr Sidibé was also accused of creating “a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority.”

In her acceptance, Ms Byanyima, 60, said she was “honoured” to be joining UNAids “at such a critical time in the response to HIV.”

“I am honoured to be joining UNAIDS as the Executive Director at such a critical time in the response to HIV,” said Ms Byanyima. “The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is a goal that is within the world’s reach, but I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. Working with all its partners, UNAIDS must continue to speak up for the people left behind and champion human rights as the only way to end the epidemic.”

Ms Byanyima began her career as a champion of marginalized communities and women 30 years ago as a member of parliament in the National Assembly of Uganda. In 2004, she became the Director of Women and Development at the African Union Commission, working on the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, an international human rights instrument that became an important tool for reducing the disproportionate effect of HIV on the lives of women in Africa.

She holds an advanced degree in mechanical engineering (in energy conservation and the environment) from the Cranfield Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Manchester.

Source: UNAIDS

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Agribusiness

The Solution To Battling Army Worms In Kenya

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The ministry of Agriculture requires an additional Sh320 million emergency funding to try and stop the crop-eating caterpillars known as fall army worms that are a threat to maize farming as they may affect food security. The assistant director of Agriculture has said.

“We have requested the Treasury to allocate us an additional Sh320 million because the fall army worm invasion is bigger than initially thought,” said Clement Muyesu. These funds will help farmers access identified pesticides which are considered costly and also use insecticides effectively.

About The Worm

One theory explaining about its origins states that the eggs or the caterpillars themselves hitched a ride in some imported produce, or even made it on board commercial flights. The armyworm whose binomial name is Spodoptera exempta also called okalombo, kommandowurm, or nutgrass armyworm, is a moth.

This worm is a very dangerous pest, capable of destroying entire crops in a matter of weeks. The larvae feed on all types of grasses, early stages of cereal crops like, corn, rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, and occasionally on coconut.

The army worm gets its name from its habit of “marching” in large numbers from grasslands into crops. They tend to occur in very large numbers during the rainy season, especially after periods of prolonged drought. The worms breed fast and can migrate 100 kilometers a day.

Kenya is suffering from a drought that has left about 2.7 million people in need of food aid and driven up the inflation rate.

“The rainfall was better this season so we all expected a very good harvest. The outbreak of fall army worm undermines what we expected would be a different story,” Mulila Mitti said by phone from Nairobi, where the FAO is held a meeting to discuss the infestation.

Still in the same meeting experts said that spotting the pest early when it is still a larva is key to prevention. They also warn that unless the spread of the fall army worm is contained, the attack is likely to result to a crisis.

Counties that have been invaded by the worms are Nakuru, Trans Nzoia,Kwale, Uasin Gishu, Taita Taveta, Busia and Bungoma.

Why it is considered a threat

It is of unknown origin – Governments, communities and farmers have no previous experience of dealing with the new pest. In other words there hasn’t been a permanent way of dealing with the pest since its origin is unknown.

It travels over a long distance – The adult moth migrates long distances and that’s how it spreads to many places in the world.

It is very invisible – The fall army worm goes right into the stem of maize plants, concealing itself from being seen and preventing farmers from spotting the problem early.

It is very destructive – This pest targets maize and other cereal crops, but it also attacks cotton, soybean, and potato and tobacco crops. When it does invade, up to three-quarters of the crop can be destroyed.

Some solutions have been suggested according to a BBC new report such as use of insecticides in its early stages, burning the crops, digging trenches, employing natural predators, like birds, to eat the worms.

A long term solution should be decided to avoid Kenya being banned on exporting its agricultural products, like other countries which have been confirmed with outbreaks, have faced.

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