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Let’s bring out the Human in Human Resources - Pandemic Effect

Mental health has been tragically ignored during this pandemic, here’s how we as Human Resource  professionals can make this better  

Everyone across the world seems to heave a sigh of relieve with the rollout of vaccines, this surely seems to have triggered a positive sentiment among us all. However, contrary to popular belief of this being the beginning of the end, the effects of the Covid19 pandemic are going to be far reaching and looming over us for a fairly long time to come. And, of the most significant after-effect being mental health issues, as their duration and impact will far exceed that of Covid19 itself. We must remember there is no vaccine for anxiety or depression yet and that is something we all should ponder on.  

Among the lot, employees, by far, have been the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health issues, during this pandemic. From remote work set-ups to weaker job markets, and from maintaining work-life balance to experiencing severe burnout, employees have been subject to a lot  of stress. “I can’t do it anymore” – is a phrase I have heard more often than otherwise during this period, and it’s heartbreaking to experience the same.  

This is but a prominent ‘call to help’/’cry for help’ and this is exactly where we, as HRs, need to step in. Here are a few ways we can help…  

1. Know your employees  

Not superficially, but for real. This can be done by surveys and opinion polls every once in a while.  Surveys can prove very helpful if accompanied by the right questions. It can actually help HRs get an  insight as to how do employees feel about the current work environment, stress factors, burnout,  etc. It can be helpful in knowing their exact concerns, which can further be used to help them deal  with it.  

2. The ‘buddy’ programme  

This turns out to be one of the most rewarding practices in an organisation. This is how it works,  start by putting in place a system where every employee is assigned with a buddy (any person in the  organisation, randomly chosen, may or may not be from the same time). With time, the two of them  will be each other’s emotional pillar at work. Have a buddy meet every once a fortnight and discuss  everything that matters to them. This process will make sure no employee is ever lonely at work and  always has someone to discuss their situation.  

3. Knock, knock  

Each and every employee should be made aware of the importance of mental health. One of the most important traits about people who suffer from mental health issues, is their lack of  communication. Make sure your colleagues recognize these signs as an alarm and keep knocking  (read checking) on people who they feel might seem to need help. Make this a part of your EAP  (Employee Assistance Programme) so that it continues even after a certain crop of HR employees have shuffled. 

4. A ‘tell all in private’ session  

Making affordable (if possible free) and confidential one-on-one counselling sessions available is extremely important for every organisation. However, that’s not the only way to help them, as a lot of people suffering from mental issues refrain from seeing a counsellor because of social stigma.  Hence, as HRs we need a build a culture where every one-on-one meeting starts with a very important, “How are you doing?” question. The promptness and tone of the response or the response in itself might be an eye-opener.  

5. Insist on taking leaves  

One thing that most employees lack today, especially during the pandemic, is work-life balance. As  HRs, we must ensure we demarcate work and personal time, even in remote set-ups. We must encourage our colleagues to take leaves and spend time with their friends and family or indulge in things they love doing or pursue a hobby. A day or two of downtime won’t hurt anyone, considering the pandemic has forced everyone to be on a 24×7 work schedule.  

Pro tip:  

Do not ask insensitive questions.  

If an employee is reporting in sick or clocking out early without letting you know of a specific illness,  be sensitive enough to not ask them about it in detail. You can, instead, ask if they are feeling alright and need help. Mental health, unlike physical health is seldom noticeable; hence, it needs dealing with utmost sensitivity. 

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