The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic is an unprecedented event that has forced many managers to make very difficult business decisions from its onset. Several of these decisions have directly affected the workforce, which has been reduced drastically in many companies just to keep afloat. Amid notices of lay-offs and salary cuts, security of tenure and internet connectivity issues have only added to the mental stress that employees carry.
Herein, lies the challenge of the HR department and managers, who on top of having to recalibrate the workforce given the significant loss of business, need to take care of the health and wellness of their employees. More than ever, mental health is equally as important as physical health during these uncertain times.
Here are a few suggestions that companies can start looking out for the best interest of their employees:
- Enforcing a cut-off system – to do away with the “always-on” mindset. A remote set-up is only a replication of the office set-up sans the physical location, hence normal office hours must still be observed to respect the personal time of employees.
- Limiting online meetings – which sometimes may be counter-productive if they take up the whole day. There needs to be sufficient time allowance between meetings. Better yet, there should be a weekday where no meetings are scheduled so that employees can focus on the legwork.
- Encouraging open communication – managers must sincerely check on the team’s well-being and be transparent about what to expect in the next few weeks. This ensures that team members can trust them and express themselves without any filters. This is important to get a sense-check of how employees are feeling regarding workload and job expectations amid all the drastic changes within the company.
- Providing healthcare access – for companies with HMO (health maintenance organization) benefits, a list of allied health partners should be made available. Moreover, employees should be entitled to use their sick leaves for days when they need to take a sanity break. Where possible, an in-house mental health specialist or hotline must be provided for employees who are uncomfortable in discussing their mental health with their managers.
- Hosting non-work-related activities – watch parties and casual online sessions with games are a great way to break from the routine and to increase a sense of belongingness to the team. The trick — don’t force anyone.
With compromises having to be made by both the company and its employees, the partnership between the two will only be evident when there is genuine concern for mental health and wellness. After all, a healthy workforce is a productive and effective workforce.
Noel Sajid Murad is a part-time faculty at De La Salle University. He earned his Master’s degree in Marketing Communications from the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, DLSU, and teaches at the graduate school. Before joining the academe, he had worked in advertising agencies managing several regional and local brands.