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COVID-19: Help employees deal with mental stress

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Added 21st May 2020 11:05 AM

Because of the pandemic, many businesses shut down and employees were told to work from home in order to maintain social distancing.

COVID-19: Help employees deal with mental stress

Dr. Sylvia Atoko

Because of the pandemic, many businesses shut down and employees were told to work from home in order to maintain social distancing.

By Dr Sylvia Atoko
On March 12, the coronavirus (COVID-19) was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The organisation recommended strict measures, including staying at home, observing social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining high levels of hygiene in order to stop the spread of the disease.  

Since then health screening and temperature checks, COVID-9 updates have since become the order of the day.

Because of the pandemic, many businesses shut down and employees were told to work from home in order to maintain social distancing. 

Working from home has not been easy, employees are experiencing depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, anxiety, general emptiness, and many other mental health issues during this time.  

COVID-19 has negatively impacted on the mental health status of employees all over the world.

The mental health problems among employees have been accelerated by factors, such as stress, anxiety, depression, fear of job loss, financial insecurity, and domestic violence.

Cases of suicide during this COVID-19 period have actually been reported in other parts of the world.

Indeed, this is one of the worst stressful moments for employees. Uganda like the rest of the world has not been spared from the effects of COVID-19.

Daily statistics worldwide indicate that the numbers are increasing, suggesting that the global curve on the coronavirus pandemic is far from flattening.

Some organisations have been proactive and have since come up with Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) to help their employees cope with mental health issues.

Unfortunately, the majority of organisations have remained silent on the issue of employee mental health and left employees to resolve their mental health issues on their own.

This has resulted in high levels of stress among employees.  Employees are an organisation's most valued asset and should be regarded highly by their organisations at all times. May is the Mental Health Awareness month.

This is, therefore, the right time to address the mental health issues among employees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uganda has attracted the attention of the international community on how it has effectively managed to control the spread of the disease with minimum resources thus maintaining a flat curve.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has been on the frontline educating Ugandans on the basic methods of preventing themselves from contracting the disease.

The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted the emotional and psychological well-being of employees all over the world including Uganda. This has resulted in mental health problems among employees.

In fact, some experts have predicted another pandemic after the COVID-19 — a mental breakdown.

Organisations should, therefore, embark on the following strategies in order to strengthen employees to overcome moments of anxiety that are brought about by the pandemic by:

  • Prioritising Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)  in order to help employees with mental health problems recover from breaking down.

  • Identifying the signs and symptoms of employees with mental health issues and immediately offering clinical support in order to avoid cases of suicide among employees.

  • Developing a culture of open and honest conversations with employees to enable them to realise that the problems of anxiety, loneliness, isolation, financial insecurity amongst other problems, are general problems currently affecting all employees globally.

  • Educating employees on the various strategies of managing stress individually through exercising, maintaining a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, engaging in gardening activities, among others.

  • Engaging the services of mental health experts to talk to employees on how to manage stress and avoid depression.

    Lastly and most importantly, organizations should design and implement a mental health policy that will provide for the mental well-being of employees now and in the future.   

    The availability of mental health resources is necessary for employee mental wellness and this will contribute to organisational effectiveness.

    The writer is the Dean Faculty of Business & Management, International University of East Africa. 


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