Supporting employee health post-Covid-19

Friday February 26 2021
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Author, Dr Caroline Sekiwano. PHOTO/COURTESY.

By Guest Writer

Around the world, organisations are worried about employee wellbeing issues presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This crisis brings potentially lethal physical health consequences for the work force. However, every day brings really encouraging news about the vaccine as organisations continue to observe standard operating procedures issued by government. And as employees that can work from home continue to do so. 

Uncertainty remains on how long people will live in the shadows of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on the health and wellbeing of the workforce. 

Organisations continue to deal with a range of issues from anxiety, isolation, loss of income to redundancies, while others are dealing with heavier workloads, more responsibilities and feeling burnouts. The crisis has intensified challenges for many peoples physical and mental health. 

And many months into the crisis, it is now clear that Covid-19 is not only a physical threat to people’s health, but a mental threat as well. 

Many people are feeling bogged down by the situation. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, but we might still in the tunnel for a long haul. 

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Organisations need to focus on social connections moving forward for the long-term because people gain so much from social networks. Peer-to-peer support is greatly beneficial in addressing the well-being of the workforce. 

Employers need to encourage employees to sustain social support by checking on each other to share their challenges as managers. 

Flexibility is an important principle in tailoring individual employee needs, including adjusting duties by applying a case-by-case basis approach other than a blanket one. There is need for flexibility all the time. Employers and employees need to be confident to have psychological savvy chats. Managers need to know the limitation of their roles.  

They also need to know that they can make the most difference by helping in the formulation of policies for the support that is already available in the organisation and referring some issues to occupational therapists as the need arises. 

Employers need to bridge the expectation gap between managers and employees by providing guidance, training, mentoring and strengthening organisational culture and frame work. Managers need to fill the support management gap for the well-being of employees. This means running roles with empathy and compassion as well as equipping employees with knowledge to support their own individual health.

Desirable people management such as good manager to subordinate relations is key in supporting employees. With increased pressure on people’s health, there is also increase in pressure and responsibility on managers. Managers are increasingly likely to be the only link with the organisation, especially if many employees work from home.

A wellness recovery plan before employees get involved in a difficult task is important so that they can have a fallback position when they get distressed because employees in distress may find it hard to think about what can make them better. In this case, introduction of psychological first aid does wonders.

Organisations need to train employees for their job roles because most of the health and well-being challenges are caused by people who are not able to accomplish or manage their jobs. Managers should take time with their groups to talk about role processes and their impact in a meaningful narrative. There is need to equip employees with the skills to manage personal boundaries as well as self-care.

Finally, there isn’t a one-stop shop solution for supporting employee health and well-being and definitely, organisations cannot just dip in and out when they feel like. 
Organisations must make a long-term commitment to make real changes for the health and wellbeing of employees in the new normal environment and make a genuine difference to the lives of the work force.

Dr Caroline Sekiwano is a human resource and organizational development advisor. caroline.sekiwano@gmail.com


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