Coronavirus- The high impact on employee mental health


image of Corona treatment cost

It’s no surprise that the Indian economy has taken a big hit post corona as the news arrives. The GDP of the country has contracted in double-digits, the lowest in decades. We have come from being the world’s fastest-growing economy to our GDP being lower than Bangladesh, the situation looks bleak for everyone in 2020.

We can be hopeful that we will soon be able to recover from this monumental loss, however realistically speaking, it’s going to be a long journey upwards.

We were all suddenly bombarded with sudden shifts and most draconian being the sudden lockdown that was imposed overnight. It’ll be an understatement, to say the least, but no one was prepared for such a situation.

The lockdown put strenuous pressure on the economy while people lost jobs, business, and livelihoods, the morale dipped low too. Data shows that an estimated 122 million people lost jobs and 24 millions of them were the youth. When such a big chunk of your population loses their means of survival it is bound to affect the psyche of the nation, considering the post-pandemic markets look un-promising at the moment.

Fear of losing one’s job, social isolation, fatigue, and burnout from Working-From-Home is one of the many reasons for poor employee mental health. Human beings aren’t designed to work in isolation, even though we were surrounded by our families constantly, it didn’t quite help. Being surrounded by families constantly has inevitably led to a negative impact on mental health too.

Not everyone has a safe space to call home, in fact, some employees especially women had to bear the brunt of this shift the most. Indian society has progressed to allow women to be an active member of the workforce but not progressive enough, as the whole and sole responsibility of taking care of the household and nurturing children heavily relies on women’s shoulders.

Let’s clarify what does the term ‘mental health’ actually implies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.”

Although one might think of the above definition as an ideal scenario, many companies were actively working towards striving for a work-life balance, shockingly no one has any idea what ‘Work-Life Balance’ means anymore! It has been a tough year filled with death and despair, and to be honest we are far from WHO’s definition of mental health. Naturally, we haven’t fared well, according to the Study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, as an estimate of 78% of the global workforce has been negatively impacted by this shift.
So a valid question to ask at this point would be, what is the way forward? There is a big vacuum that lies before us. What should we do to fill this gap?

Companies that wish to prosper in 2020 and beyond must include mental health benefits in their health programs. As they say, it takes a village, and rightfully so. Individuals have shown better results when they were engaged in communities and received active support from their colleagues, bosses, and peers.

Everyone, especially employees, is in a deeply vulnerable state and they must feel heard and safe, the least a company can do is offer an empathy-based approach. One must work towards developing a healthy approach to mental health. The post-pandemic culture entails listening to your employees, empathizing with them, and taking care of their mental health.

>However, we must throw light on the fact that taking care of someone’s mental health is a huge task in itself and inexperienced managers can have a difficult time. In such a case, it would be advisable to get professional support from someone who is trained in doing so, it will leave you with less stress and better results.

The work policies that you devise and the work culture that you imbibe should all reflect employee sensitive sensibilities. You begin with devising a work culture that does not uphold mental health as a taboo. This circles back to the basics of this argument which is, the lack of general awareness around issues of mental health.

The one who is silently suffering because he or she feels as if they will not be heard will rarely come to you for support, which is why as an organization or company you must be willing to extend an olive branch, to be able to help your employees by actively listening to them. You can also organize mental health wellness workshops, which will honestly not cost you much since everything can be done over one zoom call.

If you were happily employed pre-corona, lost your job due to the pandemic, and are currently unemployed and looking for options, know that you are not the only one, 122 million people have lost their jobs too. We are all in this together.

If you still have a job, first be thankful. Having an active source of income during a pandemic is nothing less than a blessing. However, if you started working from home and are continuously struggling to adjust to the shift, read up on some useful and easy tips on how to maximize your productivity while working from home. 

If you lost your job but were fortunate enough to find another one, but are currently struggling to adjust because you have not met anyone in person and their zoom appearances just don’t qualify, hold on to your horses because there will be better days ahead!

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Susheel Agarwal

Susheel is the CEO of Ethika Insurance Broking P Ltd. This company, which has a current value of 10 million dollars, was bootstrapped by him and two of his friends. He attributes his success to his ability to inspire others to seek happiness at work.