The world is still in the throes of a global pandemic that has impacted most of us in one way or another; and as some rightly say this is the new VUCA world. Prioritising one’s personal health and that of the family due care has become imperative for all. The Indian pharmaceutical industry as well as that around the world has come to the limelight for the role it has played and continues to in order to battle against COVID-19. Be it through research, manufacturing or ramping up production lines, pharmaceutical companies around the world went into overdrive mode even as the rest of the world socially distanced itself.
The pandemic presented itself not only as a medical concern, impacting one’s physical health, but also affected people’s mental health. Social distancing measures, isolation, lockdowns, closure of education institutions, workplaces and venues for entertainment were brought in to reduce the chance of transmission. These restrictive measures, in turn, impacted the way people interact socially, hence, leading to the deterioration of their mental wellbeing. Employees in different organisations have noted a decline in mental health. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 42% respondents observed a wane in their mental health.
However, there are many of us who were necessitated to work on-ground. Be it our staff at hospitals or the local kirana store owners in the neighbourhood or researchers finding a cure to the infection or even workers at the manufacturing units in pharmaceutical companies. It is the unmissable role of these essential workers that has brought us this far in our battle against the pandemic. It, thus, also became critical to ensure that these frontline workers are safe from the havoc caused by the virus.
Proactive leaders Communicate to Connect
The research undertaken by Harvard Business Review has also found that when managers do not communicate, the employees working under their supervision are 23% more likely than others to observe a decline in mental health during the pandemic. This underlines the importance of leaders who proactively communicate and make the effort to understand the circumstances that their team members are in. In pharmaceutical companies that are undergoing changes in operations, proper information dissemination about work hours, workload, and organisational changes is necessary. Even a simple “how are you?” can go a long way.
Digital is the New Normal
Integration of digital strategies can boost employee well-being as well. The use of wearables and apps can be used to track employee’s health parameters such as heart rate, oxygen levels, as well as emotional state. Such aggregated data can help pharma employers to check when employees might need professional intervention and treatment.
Digital today is the new normal; as employees across the globe spent the last year on zoom and various other video conferencing platforms.
Providing mental health support is a necessity not a choice
Mental health upkeep is an integral part of healthcare and it is crucial that pharmaceutical companies become harbingers for the change towards positive conversation on the topic. The discussion about addressing employees’ mental health has been somewhat catalysed by the pandemic. This, in turn, can also help address the stigma associated with talking about it. The availability of professionally trained counsellors who can provide support, furthermore, also takes us a step ahead in the process of a 360˚ digital integration of employee health.
Ensuring that the indispensable essential workers at pharmaceutical companies are safe physically also went a long way in safeguarding their mental health. The safety blanket provided by one’s environment can have an impact on a person’s emotional well-being. Foresight and planning become imperative by human resources professionals to ensure employees’ health; nimble steps to ensure personal sanitation, spatial fumigation, introduction of face recognition attendance systems to reduce contact, distribution of masks, and monitoring the health of employees are a few initial steps that can create a safety blanket for all.
Working hours & travelling as we move towards hybrid working
In such times of stress, human productivity may also decrease. Staying at home with loved ones for longer periods while continuing to work on-ground can provide a sense of comfort and mental satisfaction to employees. As such, if work hours are reduced by, for instance, 3 hours and the introduction of working shifts not only ensure that facilities are working as per usual but also that employees are able to replenish before the next day.
Another aspect to this is travelling to and from the manufacturing plants. Cutting down on the distance travelled by putting up employees and their families close to the venue of work and providing bus facilities for conveyance also helps with their wellbeing.
Financial support cushion
A major cause of worry is if one would be able to afford medical treatment in case someone in the family gets infected and their condition deteriorates. Providing medical insurance for COVID-19 above and beyond the stipulated amount of medical claim is a key intervention that can be introduced. Benevolent funds for the families of those we lost to their battle against the virus can help ease financial burden for those we lost too soon.
Organisations today must support their employees in becoming more resilient, as we continue to practice social distancing and not emotional distancing. Adopting a holistic employee welfare programme that begins with a two-way communication platform, making changes in how we work keeping in mind the new normal, providing financial support, and integrating all-inclusive healthcare solutions must be a top priority for pharmaceutical companies.