Rethinking mental health in a hybrid work era
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed not only business dynamics but also the approach toward wellness. Compassion and empathy are no longer just nice-to-have qualities; they are essential to work.
Companies across the globe actively participate in community awareness and interest in mental health and well-being through awareness campaigns and ‘outreach’ activities. However, even talking about mental health issues every year is not enough as employees experiencing challenges tend to feel isolated and are often unable to ask for assistance. The initiatives alone tend to remain static at face value but not in action.
Broadly, there are four dimensions to well-being--physical, social, financial, and emotional. Almost all have been challenged during the pandemic, in varying degrees, across different geographies. Thus, mental health conditions that already existed before are now intensified among employees. With blurring lines between work and home space; burnout, stress, and personal problems are rising, and well-being and mental health are now more critical than ever. Organisations must step in and ensure they have a healthy and happy workforce, as that translates into better teamwork, camaraderie, productivity, and overall wellness.
As remote or hybrid work model is a preferred choice of employees nowadays, businesses need to evolve and adapt to these solutions, whilst providing a secure work environment adequately supporting the workforce. Employees around the globe are re-assessing their career and life priorities, hence there is a need to have an open and inclusive environment that encourages dialogue about the challenges faced by employees and solutions provided by organisations to ensure mental well-being and empower employees in all aspects of their lives.
At the start of the pandemic, many organisations started online wellness programs, fitness classes, and doctor sessions, highlighted the importance of masking and sanitising, provided information about vaccine sites, and breakout game sessions, which were all held virtually to ensure the physical, mental and emotional health of employees. Employers may further introduce new ways to ensure the well-being of their staff and integrate wellness programs into the work ethic mindset. In an increasingly hybrid environment, all employees must get their fair share of voices, to share their thoughts.
The HR team needs to reach out to employees to understand their stress while at work and identify interventions that can have a collective positive impact. Now that there is pressure to catch up on the lost ground during the pandemic, care should be taken so as not to cause exhaustion. People need to rest, recharge and connect with loved ones to stay mentally sound.
Time for fun and leisure is important. Whether it’s a quick quiz game, birthdays, or festival celebrations, having fun with co-workers increases productivity and builds trust. Organisations also need to keep an eye on and provide support and care, wherever needed. Employee experience can be improved by encouraging participation of all, organising group surveys, developing positive-impact action plans, reviewing responses, etc. Employees need to be aware of policies regarding health & wellness, this reinforces their trust in the organisation and provides them with an open platform to share their thoughts and concerns.