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How to give mental health support to employees returning post coronavirus lockdown

How to give mental health support to employees returning post coronavirus lockdown

In these tough times of coronavirus and lockdown when almost the whole world is battling out with this “invisible enemy”, there are also many people who need mental health support as well as the physical health support. We are able to identify the person affected by Covid19 with all these tests but mental health is the issue which is a greater concern for the individual.

Because of this dreaded situation, people were forced to be in the state of quarantine and lockdown. This was either imposed by the government or self-imposed. In both the situations, the daily life of the individual under quarantine and lockdown is hugely affected. Mental health issues may not be the direct effect but they are the indirect effects of the situation. The major effects of Lockdown are social isolation and loneliness.

Social isolation and loneliness have a great adverse effect on the mental health of the individual. These lockdowns and quarantines have brought a lot of questions on the surface like health, economy, job stability and job growth and many significant questions like this. The most common consequences of Lockdown are:
● Anxiety
● Depression
● Harmful behaviours

Anxiety and depression are straightforward but harmful behaviours are a lot more complex. This may include alcohol consumption, substance misuse, smoking (very dangerous in covid), gambling, domestic issue, child abuse, self harm and even Suicide. According to NCBI, there is 30% in suicide during this pandemic outbreak and 29% of healthcare workers are experiencing probable emotional distress.

This emotional distress, anxiety and depression is affecting many of the employees in almost every industry. These mental health issues not only affect the individual in their personal but also have an adverse effect on their professional life.

This becomes very important for the employers to come up with the support of employees during mental health problems. This is very essential for the employers if their employees are their physical and mental state. Any deviation in physical and mental health can cause both short term and long-term issues for the employers.

These issues can be anything but not limited to:

● Employee Absence
● Reduced ‘performance
● Adverse situations
● Legal Liabilities

As we have established a strong case of employers taking care of the mental health of their employees after lockdown which is itself an extraordinary situation. The employers can come up with their own strategies. Here we have stated actionable essential in helping employees returning to office after lockdown:

Ensure the health and safety of your employees
This is the foremost assurance employees want from their employers. The health and safety precautions taken by the employers can save a lot of talking and thinking time for the employees which can increase productivity when returning to physical office spaces after a very long time. This mental assurance also helps the employees to help freely discuss their issues which are limiting their performance.

Symptoms identification by immediate managers
If there is an employee who is suffering from mental health issues, their immediate manager should be able to identify the issues by the symptoms shown in the behaviour. There are behaviour changes when someone is suffering from mental health problems.
There should be group sessions for the employees and the managers so they can identify the symptoms in their subordinates so they can report the same to the concerned department.

Remove social stigma attached to discussing mental health issues in the workplace
Discussing mental health issues in the office is a social stigma associated with most of the employees. The lack of discussion is reasoned by their behaviour perception and growth. Social Stigma of discussing mental health is a taboo in the workplace. Usually the younger workforce between 25 to 45 years is very hesitant to report such mental health issues in the offices. Employers should encourage their employees to report such problems. Awareness and Encouragement programs should be regularly conducted for the employees. These programs can encourage the employees to discuss their mental health in correct platforms.

Employee Engagement
Frequent Employee Engagement programs should be conducted by the employers through their HR departments and the front line manager. Both 1 on 1 and group sessions are beneficial depending on the scenario. Regular employee engagement can make the employees comfortable in discussing their mental health issues. The employer should keep these conversations private and confidential so that these reporting increases in the future.

Regular mental health checkup by Specialist
Employers should think of calling in the mental health specialist for the regular visit and checkup of the employees. Meeting with the specialist is always helpful if someone is hesitant to reveal the mental health problems. These specialists can easily identify the issues if any employee is facing them. They can advise the individual if anyone requires further advance treatment.

Social Engagement in Office Culture
After these lockdowns, it is very difficult and a time taking process for the employees to get back to the normal office routine. Those group meetings and lunches, coffee machine conversations are little distant events from now. Social distancing is the need of the hour but social distancing should not decrease the level of social engagement among the employees. The employers should encourage a buddy system or something similar to that which brings back the social connect and the feeling of togetherness.

Stress-buster Activities
Work stress and bringing the office routine back into life can be overwhelming sometimes. This can be prevented with occasional stress relieving activities. This can include workout, yoga or meditation sessions or some fun activities or any activity which can relieve the stress in the employees.

Top to down: lead by example
People usually learn and follow the people who are influential around them. Sometimes they see them as role models. In the office these people are usually in the senior management. If the employer wants to incorporate or adopt new habits in their employees related to physical or mental health, this can be done by the senior management following those new habits and protocols. This becomes adoptable among the employees if they see the senior doing the same. This becomes a very good example of leading by example.

These are few actions which we think that an employer can adopt when their employees will be resuming the office after lockdowns and quarantines. Adopting each and every action can be a bit overwhelming for an employer due to the constraints of time, cost and expertise. You can choose according to your situation.

If you are following any action different from the actions mentioned above, please do right to us at info@okayainc.com.

– Pankaj Kumar

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