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Mental Health: COVID-19 Edition

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In the past couple of years, the focus on mental health has been slowly yet steadily increasing. Fast forward to now, what was so far a ‘good to have’ has suddenly turned into an urgent need. With organizations battling to understand how to manage work in the time of coronavirus, the situation today is more turbulent than it has ever been in the past decade.

There has never been a time more conducive to fall into the trap of depressing thoughts than right now. Uncertainty about the future, personal and financial safety are prevalent thoughts. Yet, while organizations figure out how to help their employees tide through work, there are some simple, almost zero cost ways to focus on mental health.

1. Stay Connected:

With the shift in the environment, employees are now working from home, video conferencing (VC), and settling into their home offices. Those unable to work from home have vastly reduced official conversations with colleagues. However, the most significant missing element is the lunch with colleagues, coffee breaks, and fun conversations in between. There are two ways to ensure that while work continues, you also preserve these connections. One is to set up virtual lunches or laughs over teatime. This has the entire team coming together on video and discussing anything but work. My team does this twice a week, and it is a much-needed respite filled with endless laughs. The other thing that never fails to bring a chuckle is VC contests. You will be surprised to see how many employees dress up for the meetings to win awards such as ‘Most fascinating VC background.’ ‘Most fascinating VC hairstyle’ and so on. It gives people something to look forward to and breaks the monotony of working from home.

Related: 10 Best Team Building Activities for Remote Employees

2. Focus on health:

One look at Twitter, and you will notice that a standing complaint is that being stuck at home has people visiting the fridge more often. Food is taking up a fair bit of space in people’s minds. As a result, people are either balancing it out with an increased focus on fitness or letting it go altogether. This is a fantastic time for organizations to step in to offer virtual yoga, dance, workout, or meditation classes. It does not take an expert to know that physical well-being has a marked impact on mental well-being. Innumerable gyms, clubs, and independent instructors have moved to virtual classes and are witnessing great traction. The concept is gaining popularity and an excellent way to keep employees physically and mentally fit.

3. Maintain normalcy:

One of the biggest pieces of advice coming from mental health experts worldwide is to keep routine intact as far as possible. Work constitutes a large part of our everyday life, and having that change drastically can play havoc on our sense of balance. While it is essential to understand the multiple things employees now have to juggle, it is good to keep work going. Set calls as you usually would, prioritize projects, and help employees stay engaged the usual 6-8 hours a day. However, do be mindful that it is easy to forget when to stop working at home all day.

Keep work to the usual hours; avoid calling post-normal working hours. As much as possible, try to maintain a semblance of normalcy. It sounds counterintuitive, but it is the best thing you can do for your team.

4. Humor:

Do you know the best antidote to uncertainty? Well, I am not a doctor, but if I were asked, I would say humor. The world needs a lot more laughter, especially now. If your organization can take things a little lighter, ease up and
bring some spirit into employees’ lives, you might win the game. Organizations have reinvented their logos to suit the times, created funny memes, created endless fun challenges including quizzes and online games. What is your organization doing?

5. Push Boundaries:

Lastly, go all out. This is not zero cost but every bit essential. Employees need their organizations more now than ever before. Some are left homeless; find a space for them to stay. Some, if not all, are worried about their next paycheck. Reassure them. Maybe even help them with supplies or put in place a comprehensive salary advance provision. If you cannot do any of these (though I refuse to believe that), emphasize the availability of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Enable access to company-sponsored counselors and refresh their memory on
All the available support.

Global health organizations are all focusing on mental well-being at this point. While physical well-being is taking the front stage, the global situation leads to widespread anxiety about the world’s future. Organizations must step up and help their employees tide through it. For far too long, we claimed employees to be our most important assets.

Now is the time to turn those words into action.

This article is written by Ankita. She is an HR professional with work experience as an HR Business Partner and L&D Specialist. Passionate about HR, Ankita is an active blogger. She is a contributing blogger for Human Capital Institute (HCI), People Matters India, OC Tanner and more. . When not writing for them, she writes at thehrbpstory.com. She has also been invited to leading Business Schools like IIM Ranchi, IIM Jammu, Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB), Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune (SIBM), Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) and Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) as a guest lecturer/speaker and panelist. She is part of the Blog Squad for SHRM India and have served as a member of the Youth Council of National HRD Network (Chennai Chapter).People Matters India identified her as one of 15 'Emerging HR Leaders' in the country in 2016. You can follow her on twitter @ankitapoddar or reach her at hrpartnerstory@gmail.com. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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