It’s quite astonishing how a virus that is invisible to the naked eye has terrorized nations all over the world, invoking fear into the minds of people and bringing everything to a standstill.
According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus outbreak has become a global pandemic. As of now, over 22,000 people have died, and more than 480,000 people have been infected by the COVID-19.
Countries like the UK, India, and South Africa have gone into complete lockdown, urging their citizens to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and facilitate social distancing.
How COVID-19 is impacting employee health and wellbeing
As the lockdowns continue, many companies around the world are facing a spell of uncertainty about business continuity and employee wellbeing. There is no telling when this grim situation will pass, and when things will go back to normal.
Most companies have introduced flexible working and work-from-home policies to make sure that their business operations continue as usual.
But this new reality of working from home can cause isolation, increasing anxiety and stress, and impacting negatively on the physical and mental health of employees.
We human beings are a social species. We need to communicate with each other to function optimally.
As such, remote working and isolation can result in increased stress and depression, especially for young employees who are not used to social distancing. Such adverse effects on employee health and wellbeing can cause further problems for employers like increased healthcare costs in the long run.
Here are some more ways how COVID-19 is affecting employee wellbeing -
Increased Financial and Emotional Stress
While many employees have to work with pay-cuts, others have lost their jobs due to shutdowns and cost-cutting measures of various companies. Such events have caused people to face extreme stress over personal and essential expenses, and they are facing increasing uncertainty over their future.
Moreover, things can become worse if a family member of an employee contracts COVID-19. Such employees would then have to face immense responsibilities and emotional stress.
What Employers Can Do - Firstly, employers need to address their employees’ financial concerns and ascertain their future in the company, and do so in an empathetic manner. They can provide subsidies for caretaking expenses, free counselling services, etc.
Lack of Physical Exercise
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate employees had a hard time staying fit and healthy. But now, with no access to gyms and fitness centres, it has become difficult for most people to get their daily dose of physical exercise. Adding to that, the inability to go outside for people residing in locked-down countries has caused them to become increasingly sedentary.
What Employers Can Do - Consult a personal trainer to provide employees with home-workout routines or online-fitness classes, and motivate and encourage them to take part in the same.
Poor Nutritional Choices
In times of a global crisis like this, people are stocking up on supplies on whatever food products they can find in grocery stores and supermarkets. But with limited resources and supplies, people have to sustain themselves on food that is nutritionally imbalanced and deficient.
Also, in such times people tend to overstock and overeat unhealthy junk food items that they would usually not eat in normal times.
What Employers Can Do - Employers should promote awareness and education about proper nutrition among their employees. They should encourage them to eat healthy whenever possible and avoid eating unhealthy foods unless necessary.
Practising Bad Posture
Working-from-home has its benefits and its drawbacks, and one of the latter is bad posture. Not many employees have a proper work desk at home and the lack of which might cause them to sit on their couches or their beds to work. Such practices are very harmful to spine-health, and they are also detrimental to productivity.
What Employers Can Do - Employers should educate their employees on proper sitting posture and encourage them to maintain the same. Also, they should discourage employees from working while lying down on a bed or a couch.
Increased Depression and Anxiety
As mentioned above, extended lockdowns and isolation periods can harm an employee’s mental health and wellbeing. Also, the financial and emotional stress caused in times of such turmoil can cause employees to become depressed.
What Employers Can Do - If employees are suffering from depression or anxiety, employers should provide them with counselling and professional assistance. They can assign their HR executives to call and check on their employees every day for any signs of stress and depression.
The coronavirus outbreak has brought all of humanity to a standstill and only time will tell when this dark cloud will pass, It is now a challenging time for all of us to make sure that we take care of ourselves and our loved ones.
As for employers, the topmost priority now should be to ensure the safety, security, and wellbeing of their employees and their families. They should help their employees to stay healthy, both physically and mentally and should do their best to address any concern that their employees might have.