The conversation about mental health problems, including the implementation of a regulating framework for businesses to tackle the issue, has become increasingly important. Therefore, the discussion has found its way to the legislative debates of many countries like Mexico, where NOM-35 has reached its sluggish implementation stage. Still, its creation is a win for both employees and employers, say industry experts.
NOM-35 is a legal framework aimed to reduce psychosocial risks in the workplace and to promote a positive organizational environment. It is also a first in the country: “Mexico is the last country in Latin America to implement a norm like NOM-35,” said Edgar Rosas, Human Resources Business Partner, Centro de Liderazgo Emergente.
Nevertheless, the norm’s implementation has not yet materialized fully, even though Mexico is one of the countries with highest recorded stress rates. “Many organizations have adopted the legislation out of fear for fines and out of real faith in the regulation to tackle the underlying problem,” noted Rosas, adding that Mexico is lagging compared to other countries when it comes to mental health provisions. "We should be asking if we have the adequate people and auditors in place to evaluate these psychosocial issues,” he said.
Adding to the problem is that 70 percent of Mexican companies are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which do not have the resources to apply strong mental health support frameworks. Therefore, collaboration to support the efforts of these SMEs to reach their social objectives is key, noted Rosas.
As a new regulatory framework, NOM-35’s real importance is related to “the recognition, validation and protection of mental health for workers. It is a tool to use on the path toward achieving a decent and dignified workplace,” said Jorge Mérida, Partner, AND Wellbeing.
“NOM-35 benefits the health of the collaborators. Consequently, employers perceive higher productivity and achieve success,” added Nidia Garza, Vice President of Talent Management, OneAmerica. It impacts a company’s bottom line for this reason: when colleagues are happy, the company benefits greatly, too.
“Organizational and mental health is imperative for a productive environment that strengthens personal and organizational values,” concurred Garza. “Companies should consider the management of psychosocial factors as part of their business strategies. NOM-35 must become akin to a survival strategy for businesses,” agreed Mérida.
“NOM-35 is of social interest because it benefits not only one’s coworkers, but also their families and therefore wider society,” said Joaquín Apolonio, Subdirector of Safety and Health Special Projects at the Workplace, Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. For this reason, the challenge is to change the mindset of Mexican companies, urging them to comply not only because is law but also because it is the “right thing to do.”
“Good leadership is essential if NOM-35 is to be successful,” said Apolonio, adding that leadership must be developed top-down and be congruent in its approach. A good leader should be an active listener and convinced of the norm’s benefit, because if leaders do not commit to NOM-35, it becomes arduous to encourage everyone else. “Eliminating individualism and boosting social support can become a motivational driver for workers that require help. This should be a key part of the businesses strategy as well,” added Apolonio.
Garza considers that understanding the gap between what is being implemented and what the law states is key to create a plan that considers everyone in the organization, including those that have differing perceptions regarding how to solve the problem.
Recently, the Safe and Healthy Work Environments (ELSSA) agency was created with the goal to help companies implement practices that support mental health and general wellbeing. Companies that may lack significant resources should seek out ELSSA’s support, though companies ought to also support each other by sharing best practices, agreed the experts.
“Above all, the fact that we are discussing mental health issues at important public forums is already a victory,” concluded Mérida.