It is over a year and a half since the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, and exhaustion, loss, and chaos still characterize our lives today. Last week, when I went to a hospital to get myself vaccinated, I bumped into one of my colleagues. During our conversation, I could increasingly sense her inherent strife to balance work and personal commitments. Her husband had just recovered from Covid the week before, and during that period she had to balance her productivity, her commitments to the family, and take care of both her husband and herself. “How did you manage to get any sleep at all?”, I couldn’t help myself from asking.
The harsh truth remains that all of us, irrespective of our work profiles, are just managing. There’s an envelope of grief around us, and we are still managing to focus on our priorities.
Organization & well-being:
At this point in time, HR teams across the globe have unveiled the utmost level of creativity in understanding and addressing their employee’s needs. However, the larger question to be asked here is whether or not the right balance has been struck by the organization.
As organizations are scampering to find the right mix of benefits that ensure the well-being and continuous engagement of their employees, the focus often fluctuates between individuals and groups, aiming to strike the correct level of productivity. However, right at the core of this stands the sense of community. In the first 5 months of this year, one lesson we have all aligned with is the need to empathize with our surroundings and lay out clear priorities for ourselves.
As renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman had pointed out, empathy can be cognitive, compassionate, and emotional. While we are all born with the capacity to empathize, there are certain triggers during our lifetime that define the level to which we can process emotions for both selves as well as others. Given the current scenario, it has become vital, more than ever, for organizations to drive empathetic behaviors within the employees.
What can organizations do?
A lot has been done; a lot has been said about the way forward during these turbulent times. Here are some of the small but high-impact actions taken by organizations which, in my opinion, make up for good measures taken to tackle the covid wave as a corporate family.
Be agile with your employee policies and measures: The term VUCA has been floating around for some years now but never was it so clearly visible before the covid wave hit us. Although this has been said multiple times, it is indeed worth reiterating that policies need to evolve rapidly around the need of the hour. While almost all organizations have come up with policies around covid leaves for employees who are directly impacted, it is important to understand that other indirect impacts need to be catered to. Bereavement leaves are also important and must be sufficient for employees to take a step back, analyse and recover. In fact, introducing a covid- specific bereavement leave policy to cater to the loss of lives of relatives during the times of covid enables employees to take the necessary break from work and process the plethora of emotions that they undergo in these tough times.
Building a stronger support network within the organization: there are in fact two parts to this. Psychological well being measures are of utmost importance, and organizations require professional help to cater to employees. A little help extended to an employee under distress goes a really long way in establishing the true value proposition in the minds of the employee.
The second part is more around building an internal community within your organization. A number of people are in distress, while a larger population has contacts and connections that can help the ones in need. It is important to connect these two dots, for employees to know who to reach out to informally within the organization. During the peak of the 2nd wave of Covid, while resources were in short supply, companies set up a covid champions network, equipped with a central hotline number which redirects those in need of help, to a group of volunteers equipped with the necessary tools and resources. By building a stronger community within the organization, I am sure we are slowly but surely going to emerge on the other side of the turbulent times with great strength
Be a pillar of support: Every organization has come to the point where certain employees have lost their lives due to covid. It is indeed a harsh reality that we have to come to terms with. However, the role of an organization does extend beyond just moral support for the families of the deceased employees. Some organizations, both large and small, have come to the aid of their families by providing care packages. WA covid bereavement care package, which includes financial support for the family, education care package for the kids of the deceased employee and other benefits extending upto employment for the family members. This is something that organizations need to take care of, when they refer to themselves as a family, because family always look out for one another in times of distress.
Ensure that your employees are vaccinated: Multiple hospital chains across the country have tied up with corporates to get their employees vaccinated. This is essential from an overall employee wellbeing standpoint. From an employee’s perspective, an organization that looks after the employees and provides them with basic necessities is nothing short of a protective shield. A step beyond that is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated before we can safely get back to our workplaces!
Add a personal touch: In the times of Covid and the shift to virtual ways of working, another necessity is the need to talk to employees at a personal level. HR needs to stay connected and keep their ears on the ground, and the need to have telephonic conversations on a periodic basis is a basic necessity in ensuring this. While group connections are also necessary, reaching out one on one has definitely had an impact in recent times.
Over the course of the pandemic, a number of active measures have been taken across industries, some of them being very specific to the needs of the organization and the corresponding employee group. However, we need to be extremely agile, supremely cautious of the exact employee needs to emerge together, stronger, on the other side.