The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a physical health issue—it’s also a mental health issue and needs special attention from companies and individuals. A survey by the Indian Psychiatric Society reveals that during Lockdown 1.0 itself, there had been an alarming 20% rise in mental health concerns. With many working from home (especially for the first time), isolated from co-workers, friends and family, it’s natural that our daily routines are disrupted causing added anxiety, stress and strain—physically, mentally, and financially.
However, mental health was a vital topic of discussion, even before the pandemic. Employee mental health has been a point of concern for business leaders for some time now. A report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019 estimated that 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It was later reported in a different survey that depression and anxiety lead to a loss of productivity that costs the global economy US$1 trillion each year. The virus has only amplified the matter.
Social distancing, not social isolation
Dr. Pankaj Gupta, President, IIHMR University, Jaipur believes, while loneliness is seen as a common symptom during the lockdown, one needs to understand the stark difference between being lonely and being alone. The word lonely comes with a negative mindset which might require other things to compensate while being alone is a state which comes within oneself. This state comes with maturity or can be achieved through yoga, meditation and mindfulness and does not require any dependence. One can be in a state of complete happiness and fit in a state of being alone.”
As we navigate the unchartered waters in these difficult times, it is important to cope with these emotions and stress that can affect not only your well-being, but the well-being of the people you care for, your workplace, and your community. During this pandemic, it is critical for us to recognize these challenges and take steps to build our resilience to beat the stress.
Raj Narayan, NLP Counselor and Leadership Coach believes, there are lots of things that we can do to look after our own mental health and to help others who may need some extra support and care. He offers some simple, yet powerful tips for work from home professionals to manage and improve their mental health – the most important is to keep up with daily routines as far as possible like having proper time for work and rest, and more importantly communicate as much as possible with friends and colleagues.
“As we protect ourselves against potential exposure to the coronavirus, keep in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation,” he says. (Watch the full conversation on CXOToday by clicking on this link)
How employers can help
The onus also falls on leaders to display their commitment towards ensuring that their employees are in sound mental shape. For example, Uber has come up with its global ‘Employee Assistance Program,’ which is providing confidential counseling services to its employees and their family members to deal with stress and anxiety. It is also conducting regular webinars with specialists to help employees work from home efficiently while coping with uncertain times.
Right after the lockdown, Capgemini has also started a guided meditation series in association with its wellness partner, which includes light pre-exercise, meditation and post-exercise. It has also arranged for the counseling service for employees who need emotional support through its empanelled counseling service provider.
Ceat Tyres has come up with an initiative called Cofit-20 and recently appointed Chief Fitness Officer Deepali Athawale, and the renowned fitness trainer Vani Pahwa to offer fitness and mental wellbeing session to employees, besides sharing podcasts with its employees that are directed at their well-being.
Accor India too gives its employees 24/7 access to experienced counselors who are helping them achieve emotional well-being during the uncertain times.
The list is getting longer, as now more than ever, companies and individuals are realizing the need to take care of mental health and well-being. Gartner research also found that employee engagement improved 3.1% when organizations offered mental health assessments to employees.
“Organizations are working to provide the support that employees need, whether that be emotional, mental or even financial,” says Carolina Valencia, director in the Gartner HR practice.
“Investing in employee well-being will enable organisations to have a more productive and engaged workforce – and to better retain and attract talent – now and as the pandemic subsides and employees return to the workplace,” she concludes.