Mental health: Elephant in the room for India Inc. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a physical health issue, but also a mental health issue and requires special attention.

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Are you ok?

How often do we hear our bosses asking us about our mental well-being? How many organisations today actually take the pain to maintain the emotional well-being of their employees?

The spread of the COVID-19 menace has rung a bell and created a hustle amongst organisations to consider the ‘mental health of employees’ as the need of the hour. In moments of uncertainty and concern, it is not only what leaders of organisations do, but how they do it that matters.

According to Deloitte’s 2020 Survey, ‘from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the immediate focus of employers has been on ensuring the health and safety of their employees.’

In the face of certain challenges and a still-uncertain set of risks, business leaders are rightly concerned about how their companies will be affected and what they have to do next. Keeping their workforce sane is their top priority as of now. HRKatha spoke to a few HR leaders about this issue and uncovered some exciting initiatives taken by the country’s majors.

Rajesh Sahay

“The present situation is unprecedented. In our lifetime, we had never before seen the world being brought to a standstill like this! There is shock, disbelief, and at times frustration about the uncertainty. Amidst such hard times, we believe it is important to communicate with the team as a group and also one-on-one, to understand their fears and concerns and help them overcome them”

Technology

“Since ‘e-connects’ are a new medium of communication using applications, such as Skype and Zoom Calls, we have developed our in-house radio and video channels to keep our employees engaged and healthy. We have various leaders addressing our staff over our video platforms, to keep them engaged and informed. To ensure they are well occupied, we try to engross them and keep them busy in a healthy way,” explains Kaustubh Sonalkar, group president-HR, Essar, and CEO- Essar Foundation.

Considering that engagement is very critical, the Essar team has also transformed their offline techniques to online media. Yoga sessions used to happen quite frequently in the premises itself, as part of this healthy routine. But now, they have modified the existing practice, to rope in not just their employees but also their families to perform these healthy activities. Along with yoga, meditation sessions are also happening over Zoom Call and through video mediums. “All in all, we are making effective use of video technology,” asserts Sonalkar.

The Essar Group also has an app for its employees, called ‘Book my training’, where the employees can book the sessions of their choice according to their chosen slots. “We are trying to add books and audio sections as well so that one platform can provide them all the recreational material required,” says Sonalkar.

Communication, counselling and support

Dr Anju Sharma, practising psychiatrist, and an international speaker, says, “The virus has already created a stressful environment for all, leading to worldwide psychological chaos. The fear and anxiety about the disease causes strong emotions in adults and children. Only if individuals cope with this stress can they be emotionally and physically available for their own selves and their families.” While the coping mechanism of firms reacting to this sensitive need does vary, their motive remains the same — to comfort their employees in such hard times.

Kaustubh Sonalkar

we have developed our in-house radio and video channels to keep our employees engaged and healthy

Rajesh Sahay, senior vice-president-HR, Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting, shares, “We have organised multiple sessions by doctors on COVID 19 protocols/preventive measures and busted myths for our employee base in order to curb their panic veins. We are also organising webinars regularly in order to impart functional and behavioural trainings, on how to keep our team engaged and positive. A health tracker is being maintained for the employees and their family members, by keeping a tight check on them on a daily basis.”

For the employer, the task at hand is to help employees navigate the arduous journey of continuing their work post or during mental illness. The intention should be to adopt a supportive attitude towards the employees. “The present situation is unprecedented. In our lifetime, we had never before seen the world being brought to a standstill like this! There is shock, disbelief, and at times frustration about the uncertainty. Amidst such hard times, we believe it is important to communicate with the team as a group and also one-on-one, to understand their fears and concerns and help them overcome them,” advises Sahay.

It is all right to find oneself struggling and going through a hard time. It is not, however, all right to abandon oneself when one needs help. “Through Wipro’s ‘Mitr’ initiative, trained counsellors in the company are available to assist employees when in need,” shares Sahay.

Microsoft, P&G and Deloitte have also sought professional assistance in order to help their employees tackle the turmoil.

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