There is no doubt that with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives have flipped 180 degrees. This global crisis not only brings with it fatal physical consequences, but it has also started having mental health implications. The fear, uncertainty, and isolation, COVID-19 has inflicted on people have had devastating effects on them. For organizations, it is pivotal to ensure employee well being.
Anxiety and depression have been on the rise. Stress and burnout were already prevalent in our workplaces. Throw in the pandemic, and it has become a deadly combination. According to a study conducted by Pew Research Centre, one-third of the people aged 18 to 29 are highly distressed as compared to other age groups. And only one out of five of them are comfortable speaking about the problems they face.
The need for psychological support and solidarity is utmost. The biggest responsibility lies with the employers who need to nurture a healthy work environment, wherever it is, all the while adequately addressing mental health issues in their employees.
But how to go about that? Well, several factors can be considered by every employer when it comes to ensuring the mental as well as the physical well-being of the employees.
As responsible leaders, it is our duty to safeguard our employees both physically and mentally. This can be done by establishing an open line of communication. Keep the conversations alive and let the employee know that they are being heard. This will build trust.
It is crucial that you have an eye on mental well-being with regular contact. Managers and colleagues should check-in with each other. Sharing techniques to stay calm or even just a Chai-on-FaceTime would go a long way in ensuring that people feel less isolated. Keeping employees engaged will also help in identifying folks who need your help. And reach out to them with empathy.
Research from Hong Kong, in the aftermath of the 2003 SARS outbreak, suggests that social connectedness can fight the mental health impacts of a pandemic. Just staying in touch with colleagues can provide an important buffer from the feeling of disconnection. Promote regular virtual meet-ups among your people.
Employees are feeling overwhelmed and anxious in the confines of their homes. Ask your managers to reach out routinely to check-in. And not just about work, but also about their general well-being. A simple one-on-one catch-up call or a virtual team tea-break every other day would do the trick. Asking direct questions, such as – ‘How are you managing?’ or ‘How is everything on your end?’, will build transparency and open-communication.
Crisis makes it difficult to motivate oneself. Setting a short and clear roadmap for your organizational objective will rally your employees around a common goal. This would also be a good time to remind who you are as an organization. It will help employees find comfort in the familiar and navigate uncertainty for the pandemic.
Constantly communicate your plans to manage COVID-19 with your organization’s broader purpose. Share your organizational purpose and values in all your communication as a reminder that you care. Give shout-outs to folks who are doing well, make folks feel a sense of belonging in your organization.
In short, keep communicating. Silence on your part will sow worry among your employees.
As people are adjusting to the new normal of COVID-19, productivity may have taken a hit. You can help them maximize productivity by providing infrastructure and support they need to do their job. Giving your employees the flexibility of work also increases efficiency.
Mobilize your middle management, they are a highly influential group in your organization. They have their ears to the ground at all times. Give them the freedom to experiment in new ways of working and they will help find the optimum processes that you can use. More importantly, now is a good time to facilitate upskilling for your employees. Make them more capable and resilient.
Gartner, in their recent study, found that most organizations and individuals are adopting a hybrid work model, which allows them to work from both the office and the home. A perfect balance between the two. And let’s just agree this- the pandemic – has pushed us to view our work lives in a new light.
While organizations are looking for the right tools and technology to normalize the “New Normal”, the focus should also be on the employees and their overall well-being. Staying confined within the four walls might protect us all from the disease, but let’s not ignore our mental well-being any longer.
The objective right now should be towards creating a flexible, enjoyable working environment. That allows better control for the organizations and perfect balance for employees. But the question is are you ready for the new normal of work?
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