Promoting employee well-being during COVID-19 lockdown
The world is currently in the midst of an unprecedented lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. It is coming to be regarded as the most catastrophic global event since World War II. It is expected that the effects of this pandemic, economic as well as cultural, will be felt long after it has officially ended, and the world will not be the same again.
What does this pandemic mean for working professionals? Any professional spends at least 8-10 hours of each working day at their office. Sometimes, we spend more time with our colleagues at work than we are able to with our family members. As most organisations have asked their employees to continue ‘working from home’, it is time to pause and reflect on the role that employers can play in the lives of their employees at this crucial hour.
We are all confined to our homes. But not all of us are in the same situation. Some of us have the luxury of living with our families, where everyone can divide household responsibilities among themselves. Some of us have sick and elderly family members to provide care for and ensure that they do not contract Covid-19, apart from shouldering the major responsibility of household chores. Some of us are living by ourselves and are experiencing absolute and complete solitude for the first time in our lives. The true test of an organisation lies in how it is able to support its employees in times of a crisis. Now, more than ever, it is the duty of the employers to ensure that work is not an additional cause of stress for their employees.
Apart from ensuring of course, that employees are not laid off during these immensely difficult times and not deduct salaries of employees not being laid off, organisations should also work on an honour system and devise a system of paid sick leave for employees who cannot work from home, because of their own physical or mental health, or the health of a family member. These are the most basic steps which can be expected from an employer. Further, work from home should not be used as an excuse to make employees work all day long or expect them to be available on-call at all hours. Since all of us have different obligations at this time, employees should be allowed to structure their work day in a manner that best suits their needs.
On a personal level, employers and bosses also need to regularly keep checking in on their employees and inquire after their mental and physical health and the well-being of their family members. In times of such isolation, it is more important now than ever to foster a sense of togetherness among their employees. The technology, which is being used to enable work from home, such as apps like Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp, can also be used to have weekly calls with employees, where people do not talk about work, but to bond together as a team and talk about issues not related to their work.
These, truly, are un-chartered waters in every sense of the term. We are struggling to comprehend the enormity of this crisis facing us. This a real opportunity for employers to show how much they value the well-being of their employees and to show that they are actually human beings to them and not dispensable robots. We will have a lot of things to reflect over when we emerge from this catastrophe. Let us hope employer-employee relationships are not one of them.