How to prioritize mental well-being during lockdown.

We are living in turbulent times and there is no certainty amongst employers and employees alike about what tomorrow will hold. This causes high levels of anxiety and is negatively impacting the mental wellbeing of the South African workforce. With level 3 lockdown coming to an end we will have some gain in freedom; however, majority of employees will still be required/ encouraged to work remotely. With employees still working remotely employers are encouraged to attend to the mental health needs of their workforce.

The following guidelines can be followed by employers to ensure that anxiety or stress is kept at a minimum:

1. Keep connected By now, majority of the population has started using communication technology to stay connected with each other. This section serves as a reminder to the reader of the importance of scheduling meetings to discuss issues, opportunities or even to check up on your employees. Setting up a call schedule might be helpful to ensure that you routinely check in with your employees to ensure that they are able to cope with everything and that they are keeping well. Tip: Use video calls as far as possible so that you can physically see how your employees and colleagues are holding up as well as to personalize the experience for the people that you are contacting.

2. Remember to switch off too During this time of remote working most of us have fallen into the trap of sitting in front of our screens from the start of business until after work. It is important to remind employees to take regular screen breaks and discourage out-of-hours logins. Too much time online can be disadvantageous for mental well-being.

3. Be open and honest Employees are already worried about the developments of the coronavirus, the future of the organization, the future of the country’s economy, etc. It is important as an employer or manager to manage the anxiety of employees as far as possible, therefore be open and honest with employees with how the business is coping with the situation and what are the plans going forward. This will eliminate some uncertainty and might even give your employees back a sense of control. Tip: Ensure that management conveys a consistent message throughout the organization. Avoid confusion amongst employees!

4. Spot the signs of stress Knowing the signs of stress or burnout can help you to provide support before a situation gets worse. As a manager ensure that you educate yourself on what to look out for. Some symptoms include low energy, headaches, insomnia, and irritability. If an employee displays signs of burnout they may benefit from a break or even a confidential chat.

5. Highlight support Reminding staff that support is there if and when they need it can be a good safety net for well-being. Share details of your Employee Assistance Program if you have one or signpost extra support.

6. Regain routine Lastly, the lockdown has disrupted the routines of many people. But routine can be beneficial for mental well-being. Employees who are working remotely need a routine that can work for them.

During these times employers or managers should use every available tool to ensure business success, and improving the well-being of your workforce can prove to be a great tool to achieve this.

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