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Jakarta Post

Govt recognizes mental health problems as occupational hazard

  • Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, August 8, 2018   /   08:19 am
Govt recognizes mental health problems as occupational hazard The regulation stipulates that employers must implement stress management to avoid their workers having mental health problems. (Shutterstock/-)

After decades, Indonesia has finally recognized mental disorder as an occupational hazard by issuing a new ministerial regulation that requires employers to ensure that their workers have a good work-life balance, among other things.

The inclusion has expanded worker protection to not only the usual blue-collar workers who work with machinery that could be dangerous but also to white-collar workers toiling in front of computers. Apparently, for some people, this kind of job can be hazardous.

Rosihan, not his real name, is a senior graphic designer who understands how designing advertisements can be hazardous to his health. He says he finds his job very stressful because his boss is demanding. Working seven days a week is something he has to do quite often. The workdays are also sometimes long.

“Oftentimes, I need to redo a design because my boss is not satisfied with it. Even if a client says the design is alright, my boss will still ask me to do it all over again,” Rosihan said.

He said the company did not tolerate workers who came late in the next morning even when they worked very late the night before. His salary is cut Rp 15,000 for every 15 minutes he is late. “I feel like the company regards us, the employees, as machines rather than human beings.”

The Manpower Ministry has included psychological well-being in a 2018 ministerial regulation on occupational safety and health standards issued in April. The regulation replaces an old one on occupational health standards issued in 1964.

The regulation stipulates that companies or employers must implement stress management to avoid their workers having mental health problems.

Workplaces should provide work training, counseling, a reward system and allow organizational changes to give employees the chance to convey their aspirations while carrying out their duties.

In another case of overwork, having the title “manager” can mean more pressure than privilege. A senior sales manager at a Jakarta-based digital agency, Suryani, not her real name, said she was trying to follow better time-management to avoid her old habit of staying overnight at the office to get through her mounting workload.

“I used to stay until 2 a.m., even overnight at the office to plan for a project,” Suryani said, adding that she now arrived earlier at the office to complete work from the previous day.

Working overtime is the norm

Having a mounting workload and excessive working hours is common in the world of white-collar workers, especially those working at advertising agencies. Instagram account @overheardahensi captured this very condition and shared the workers’ stories with 15,000 followers.

One of the posts reveals the thoughts of an advertising agency’s account executive (AE), which reads, “My life as an AE is full of work. I work before sleeping, after waking up, even while I am pooping. Alas, I am still not rich.” The post has been liked by more than 1,800 Instagram users.

Sindikasi, a media and creative workers union, has been campaigning for the government to pay attention to mental health at the workplace. Data gathered by Sindikasi from its members showed nearly 32 percent of media and creative workers experience excessive working hours of more than 48 hours per week. Meanwhile, the 2013 Manpower Law regulates that a regular workweek should be a maximum 40 hours.

Overwork often leads to depression, the union said of its data from members’ reports.

Unhealthy behavior

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in a 2016 study emphasizes that a heavy workload and job demands, as well as conflicts at the office, are strongly related to mental health problems like exhaustion, burnout, anxiety and depression. To some extent, it results in other physical impairments, such as cardio-vascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders.

Work-related stress is also related to unhealthy behavioral patterns, like heavy alcohol consumption, less frequent exercise, increased smoking and sleep disorders.

“The impact of such unhealthy behavioral patterns is evident, as every year around 6 million deaths are caused by tobacco and over 3 million are attributable to alcohol consumption,” the study says.

Indonesian Occupational Medicine Association 2017 data, posted on the Health Ministry’s website, reveals that more than 60 percent of small and medium industry workers suffer from depression, and 57 percent of them find it hard to sleep or have insomnia.

Among the causes are high job demands, unclear job description and bad interpersonal relations with supervisor and colleagues.

Sindikasi chairwoman Ellena Ekarahendy expressed appreciation for the government’s move to regard mental health important, and she hoped that all companies would comply with the new regulation.

“We are now developing guidelines for companies based on the regulation,” Ellena said, adding that some things to be highlighted in the guidelines were clear working hours and job description.