Employee Well-Being and Covid-19

We are indeed living in tough times. Outbreaks of infectious diseases can be stressful for many people. Simply because it causes a disruption in daily routines and the uncertainty creates a lack of sense of control. Social distancing and self-isolation adds more to the stress. Therefore, it is imperative for employers to step up and take well thought out steps to look after their employees well-being.

Companies should continue to look towards contributing to the SDGs post COVID-19 as each goal presents aspects of what is needed to achieve the Agenda 2030. SDG3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages is critical, even more so during this crisis. While providing health insurance to employees’ is important, let us be mindful of promoting mental health and well-being for all human beings, as stated in SDG 3.4.

Businesses need to not only acknowledge that their employees are going through difficulties working from home, supervising homeschooling and managing household chores simultaneously. Therefore, employers should show empathy and be available; understand that these are outstanding times and so talk to the employees about their fears, answer any questions they might have and reassure them about work and other issues that may come up because of the virus.

Organize regular check in calls on Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms which will allow employees to meet ‘face-to-face’ and still feel part of the team. If you see any significant changes in any team member’s personality, it may be a sign that the team member is struggling and may require some extra time to talk. Sometimes, providing a safe space to someone to talk about their issues is enough to make a difference.

Employers’ should most importantly highlight their employee’s assistance programs (don’t have one? Here is how you can start the process) and make other mental health apps available to your employees. Guided meditation is an effective way of being able to manage emotions, thoughts and feelings rather than being overwhelmed by them. Let them know they are not alone and join in on these Mindfulness Training Exercises twice a week with them.

Sehat Kahani is providing a Corporate E-Health App, an ultimate solution to take care of employees’ health needs; it provides access to General Physicians 24/7 and mental health experts and specialists can also be added to the plan. We reached out to Sehat Kahani and this is what Dr. Sara Saeed and Dr Iffat Zafar (Cofounders of Sehat Kahani) had to say “Most individuals, to some extent or the other, thrive on social interaction; enforced seclusion is not conducive to emotional health. Compounding the feelings of loneliness is the anxiety over lost livelihoods and the prospect of financial ruin, the fear of infection (asymptomatic spreaders causing the most panic) and of losing loved ones, and, above all, the bleak open-endedness of it. Even though 1 in every 5 persons is affected with depression and anxiety due to covid, Judging by the figures, Covid-19 has not even come close to peaking in Pakistan. In this difficult time through the Sehat Kahani app we are here to ensure every Pakistani can access a qualified mental healthcare expert no matter wherever they are.”

Another organization worth mentioning here is, The British Asian Trust. They are working to increase awareness and initiate these important conversations- having mental health integrated in to family & community support, workplace, education system, health care system and on a national level. Sanaa Ahmed, Mental Health Manager stated “Mental health needs to be looked at and included in all global COVID-19 responses. The importance of employee well=being and mental health has been getting more and more recognition as organizations and employers are becoming more aware of the negative effects of poor mental health on the individual, the overall work place environment as well as productivity. Looking out for employee well=being has proven positive effects on employee engagement, loyalty, productivity as well as on financial gains. As people adapt to the ‘ new normal’ and work from home, have children home-schooled, anxiety and uncertainty about their jobs and the future, worry about their colleagues and families, the implications on one’s mental health is huge.”

Now is also a good time for companies to look into long term sustainable solutions that benefit their business and their employees’ well-being. Workplace counselling is a new concept and has steadily been gaining momentum. Dubbed as a proactive human resource initiative, it can provide great benefits to the organization such as decrease in costs related to turnover, burnouts, absenteeism, etc, improvement in employment productivity and performance and can help employees’ with their personal growth. Investing in workplace counselling can greatly facilitate with employees’ rehabilitation back to the ‘new normal’ once they eventually do return to their offices.

A brief released by UN asks for countries to increase their investment in mental health support as before the pandemic countries on average only allocated two percent of their public health budget to mental health support. The brief emphasized that countries need to highlight access to psychosocial support and emergency mental health support in their responses to the pandemic. It is important to actively seek ways to let employees  know that the company is there for them and that together, they will be able to get through these challenging times. Human capital is one of the six types of capital needed for a business to survive and may be the most important of all capitals, therefore let us take care of one another.