Mental Health: COVID-19 Edition
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. While organizations figure how to help their employees tide through work, here are some simple, almost zero cost ways to keep the focus on mental health too.
1. Stay Connected:
With the shift 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. The biggest missing element, however, 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 the number of 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.
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 on people’s mind. 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 wellbeing has a marked impact on mental wellbeing. Innumerable gyms, clubs and independent instructors have moved to virtual classes and are witnessing great traction. The concept is gaining popularity and a good way to keep employees physically and mentally fit.
3. Maintain normalcy:
One of the biggest advice coming from mental health experts worldwide is to keep regular routine intact as far as possible. Work constitutes a large part of our normal life and having that change drastically can play havoc to our sense of balance. While it is important to understand the multiple things employees now have to juggle, it is a good idea 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 when at home all day, it is easy to forget when to stop working.
Keep work to the usual hours; avoid calling post normal working hours and as much as possible try to maintain asemblance of normalcy. It sounds counterintuitive but it is the best thing you can do for your team.
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 lightly, ease up and
bring some humor 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 on the availability of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Enable access to company sponsored counsellors and refresh their memory on
all the support that is available.
Global health organizations are all focusing on mental well-being at this point. While physical well-being is taking front stage, the global situation is leading to widespread anxiety about the world’s future. It is important for organizations to 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.