These are unprecedented times, where the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted each aspect of our lives. While we have survived contagions like SARS, MERS, etc., the sheer havoc wrecked by the rapid global spread of Covid-19 has been unmatched.
In an attempt to minimize the spread of infections, governments worldwide had to resort to drastic measures to slow the rate of infections. These include lockdowns, self-isolation, social distancing, and strict hygiene instructions.
Businesses have been impacted and most of the workforce has been working from home. Thus, it becomes challenging to serve customers and to operate business smoothly.
Working from home without social interaction and support from colleagues may be tough. The general sense of fear and insecurity is compounded by uncertainty about the future and financial worries. These factors can lead to a significant increase in stress levels, consequently impacting employee health and productivity.
Therefore, even as companies struggle with business continuity planning, it is imperative for employers to consider mental health support as a component of that plan.
This has been validated by surveys and studies, including one by the mental health provider Ginger, whose findings indicated that 7 out of 10 employees considered the pandemic to be one of the most stressful times of their entire professional career.
According to the Ginger study, around 88% of workers reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress over the past 4 to 6 weeks.
These heightened levels of anxiety and stress could potentially prove costly for employers, especially in non-essential businesses, while they look to optimise their workflow in time like this.
If you run a business where your employees are currently working from home, you need to be aware of the following common mental health issues that could afflict the workforce in these trying times:
Employees are worried about their jobs, salary cuts, ability to meet their financial obligations and liabilities, or other finance-related issues.
While working from home sounds relaxing, it might not be quite as easy in reality. For example, working at home with children or old people can be distracting.
Working from home can intensify the feeling of isolation. Considering that we are social animals and thrive on social interaction, beyond a certain point of time, employees could start missing going to work and interacting with colleagues. This is especially true for employees living alone.
Employers should bear in mind that while stress and anxiety are common problems, for some, it could be temporary and subside after the lockdown is lifted and lives return to normal. The effects might be more long-lasting for others and continue even after the situation eases.
Isolation can be an anxiety-inducing situation, so keep an eye on your staff to detect such signs. The physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety could include headaches, muscle cramps, twitching, irritability, and nausea, amongst others. This could potentially lead to other serious symptoms if left untreated.
For example, General Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) is a condition which if diagnosed early yields more easily to treatment. So do seek medical advice if in doubt.
During a crisis situation like the present one, employees with lower levels of psychological resilience could potentially start harbouring negative thoughts, increasing the risk of anxiety and depression. Noticing early symptoms can help facilitate faster recovery in these cases through early recourse to appropriate professional intervention.
Employers can take certain steps to mitigate the adverse effects of the situation and help their workforce tide over this crisis.
Firstly, ramp up your internal communications. Acknowledge the fact that your internal audiences come first and help both your brand and your team prepare for a response.
Share tips and recommendations on personal safety and precautions issued by the WHO and your local Health Ministry.
Focus on Internal Communications, as it will play a big part in sharing your Contingency plan/ Plan B.
Identify Risk factors and implement Risk Mitigation plans.
Put on hold all travel and assist in minimising person-to-person interaction.
Show employees that you care and that their well-being is your foremost priority.
Engage with your team frequently and offer to assist with medical assistance, should the need arise.
Engage the team. Maintain personal contact with employees at an individual level, to reassure them of your support. Let them know that they can talk to you about any concerns or stress and anxiety-related issues they might face during this period
We often refer to employees as being our most valuable resources. Let them know that by demonstrating care and support for their well-being. Take the extra step and reinforce the feeling that employees are not alone. Let them know that the whole organisation is uniting to fight against the pandemic.
Though the times are grave, they will not last forever. As the situation eases and we recover from the pandemic, we will emerge from it a stronger and more cohesive unit.
To make this as smooth as possible for you, we would be happy to assist. For information and help on augmenting your Internal Communications or designing a response map to navigate the Covid-19 crisis, please reach out to team Matrix.
Together in times of crisis!