The pandemic situation is taking a toll on people’s mental health. Those with a history of anxiety issues are finding it even harder to deal with the stress and unease brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak.
While some are fearing loss of jobs, others have already seen pay cuts and deferred appraisals. The ongoing lockdown has left employees feeling anxious and worried about their future, prompting many corporates to look for ways to keep the staff motivated.
What leads to anxiety during lockdown?
Irregular work hours, improper work environment, handling household chores, stress and disturbed sleeping patterns are considered to be the primary reasons behind rising anxiety levels.
We have introduced a counselling service to support the mental well-being of all the employees as well as their family members
Dr Vipul Rastogi, leading consultant neuropsychiatrist, Medanta – The Medicity, if of the opinion that anxiety comes out as a normal phenomenon in extreme situations, such as the current scenario. He agrees that people with a history of anxiety are bound to struggle way more than is usually expected.
Emphasising several aspects of anxiety during lockdown, Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group says, “In this difficult period, not only are employees finding it difficult to adapt to the new lifestyle, but the situation is taking a toll mentally. With absolutely no business generation, there is a financial pressure in terms of job security and salary cuts, which pushes employees to overthink and get anxious.”
Anand also believes that a lot of anxiety results from the baseless information being disseminated by the media channels, which leaves a psychological impact on people. He urges remote workers to stop assuming the amount of time needed to come out of this lockdown period.
It is important to have a clear line of communication with the employees and there should be direct interaction between a counsellor and an employee without any interference from the management
Sharing a similar opinion, Milind Apte, chief human resource officer, CEAT Tyres, says, “The way businesses are going around and questions regarding job security and salary dispersion at stake, several thoughts have coupled in the mind of the employees and multiplied their anxiety levels.”
Lockdown anxiety – The three phases
We need to reflect on the fact that anxiety can strike anybody at any time. As Dr Rastogi has earlier mentioned, anxiety levels are mostly seen in extreme situations. He also gave a few tips on how to deal with this issue in three different scenarios amidst the lockdown.
People who are working from home
We need to be very mindful about their feelings. The earlier we accept that anxiety is natural, the earlier we conquer. If anxiety is in excess during remote working, then employees should reach out to psychologists and psychiatrists who are offering online sessions.
People who are not working from home
Dr Rastogi considers that it is even tougher for people who are working outside. Apart from the usual uncertainty about employment, there is a much higher risk to health. Taking some time out for self — to exercise, stretch, listen to —music can be a good strategy to curb the anxiety levels.
The way businesses are going around and questions regarding job security and salary dispersion at stake, several thoughts have coupled in the mind of the employees and multiplied their anxiety levels
People who have lost their jobs
Certainly, the struggle is even bigger for this category. Apart from the above- mentioned tips, it is important for this bunch of employees to seek help from colleagues and family. They should reach out to all their connections and try to get back into employment. Positivity is the ultimate key.
How should employees deal with anxiety?
At times, when employees have excessive time in their hands to spare, they tend to overthink and fill their minds with questions. Reflecting on them and finding solutions is not considered to be helpful in this situation.
Dr Rastogi advises that remote employees should try and maintain a routine and spend quality time with their loved ones, physically or virtually. He also mentions his stress- management sessions for MNCs, where work-life balance is highlighted as the golden opportunity to improve things on the personal front.
Undoubtedly, social media presents a welcome diversion for the mind in times of crisis. But, according to the consultant neuropsychiatrist, not all types of social media are watch worthy. Dr Rastogi feels that in such critical situations, some social media platforms tend to have a negative impact on health. He strongly believes that employees should stay away from all sorts of negativity at this point of time.
Apte of CEAT also believes that social anxiety comes from availability of too much information from the news channels and that employees should eschew news. Frequent access to information definitely plays a significant part in adds to the level of anxiety.
In this difficult period, not only are employees finding it difficult to adapt to the new lifestyle, but the situation is taking a toll mentally
What should organisations do?
Dr Rastogi states that in spite of companies acknowledging mental health as a serious issue, the stigma related to discussing the same remains. He says, “It is important to have a clear line of communication with the employees and there should be direct interaction between a counsellor and an employee without any interference from the management.”
As most people are not used to the remote working structure, Anand thinks that the best foot forward will be to engage people in a meaningful manner. When it comes to employees facing issues with questions of job uncertainty, communication works like magic, clearing up all the piled up thoughts. Being an HR leader, it is very important to give comfort to employees dealing with anxiety.
How are organisations curbing this situation?
In order to help employees with anxiety issues, Apte says that the organisation has assured the employees of no layoffs and salary cuts. “Our commitment towards them in these extraordinary times is indeed beneficial, especially when employees are worried about job losses happening across sectors,” claims Apte.
From getting a chief fitness officer and a rehabilitation specialist, to bringing a counsellor on board, the manufacturing company has made all communication ties possible between them and the employees. Employers are given counselling sessions in a broadcast format before starting the day.
Keeping the employees’ welfare at the heart of every decision and initiative, Priyadeep Chopra, head, corporate human resources, Edelweiss Group, says, “We have introduced a counselling service to support the mental well-being of all the employees as well as their family members. This is a support intervention in which online psychologists will be available to assist employees with their personal and /or work-related problems that may impact their emotional well-being. Through this service, the counsellors will provide employees with a non-judgmental, empathic and accessible space to navigate this stressful time.”
The financial services company has facilitated a doctor helpline service, offering WHO/GOI verified information, to guide employees and answer their queries during this challenging period. Edelweiss has also organised webinars on managing anxiety, building immunity, and multiple fitness routines, to help curb the anxiety level of its employees.