Article: How 2020 shifted the world view on ‘health’

Employee Relations

How 2020 shifted the world view on ‘health’

This World Health Day, let’s reflect on how the biggest health crisis pushed for changes that altered how the global population perceives and acts upon the various elements of health and wellness.
How 2020 shifted the world view on ‘health’

Health has been the keyword that dictated nearly all the decisions made across the globe in 2020, followed by business and sustainability. Several lessons were learned, new ways of living and working were adopted and old ways were let go of, as individuals and corporates held on to the need to prioritize health and wellness. 

As we celebrate World Health Day today, let’s take a moment to reflect on how the biggest health crisis and the resulting circumstances led to a paradigm shift in how the global population views and responds to the various critical elements of health and wellness.

Mental well-being became the top priority 

Shortly after the outbreak of coronavirus, reports around a looming psychological pandemic began doing the rounds. This caution wasn’t far away from the reality - More than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11% the previous year. The isolation for many individuals as they remain locked up within the boundaries of their house on account of nationwide lockdowns, as well as extended workdays for many as they managed work, household chores, and caregiving responsibilities with no significant support, and the pressing financial and economic worries consequent to news of mass layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs, all these circumstances added to the pre-existing worries of contracting coronavirus or fearing for the life of a loved one who might have, especially for aged family members, it all deteriorated the mental well-being of the global population.

These realities that people were living in became visible to all, as they recognized what the outcome of these persistent worries was likely going to be - a psychological pandemic. In anticipation of the continuous dip in mental well-being, individuals as well corporates stepped up to create greater awareness around the significance of mental health, destigmatized mental well-being through open conversations and implementing and encouraging employees to take mental health day-off, enabled each other with access to professional help, and promoted ways to tackle the various threats (personal and professional) to mental well-being.

Social well-being became important

The pandemic struck hard at the most important aspect of being a human-connections. Isolated, quarantined, restricted due to fear, we all resigned ourselves to working from home, not meeting our colleagues, even staying away from our families, and not even meeting our friends. This feeling of isolation and separation hit our social well-being as we craved connecting with our families, our colleagues, our friends.

Britt Andreatta, Author, and Former CLO, shared, “To belong is to matter. A big part of our belonging comes from our jobs and being at work, being a part of our community, and from our families. The pandemic made it difficult to meet people we love and we have to be distant from others. Our sense of belonging has got shifted with the pandemic making us view people as dangerous and fret how they can harm me. So our relationships- as to how we see other humans- have been impacted.”

Just as technology came to our rescue to help us maintain business as usual and work unaffected from our homes, it also became a tool to stay connected socially. Companies too recognized this and started instituting regular check-ins to not only touch base with employees on work but also to ensure they feel connected socially and ward away those feelings of isolation. Many firms organized movie watching, online games and activities, yoga and wellness sessions, and light-hearted fun sessions involving even the families of employees to make up for the missing aspect of social connection and ensure the social well-being of their employees.

Work-life balance gets blurred

The pandemic-triggered remote work created an inevitable dilemma around when exactly work time begins and ends each day. The work-life boundary has become more chaotic than ever. A hazy work-life balance seems like a part of the new normal. For most of us, work takes precedence over everything else in our lives. Findings of multiple surveys show that employees are actually logging more hours. 

Be it personal or professional, a balance is important but striking the perfect equilibrium isn't a snap. And there is nothing called a perfect work-life balance. Some of the top triggers that lead to a lopsided work-life balance include work pressure, working longer hours, increased responsibility at home, or having children. The key is to think about the best ways that you can achieve the balance and strive for a realistic one. As Arianna Huffington says, “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in". 

On this World Health Day, let’s focus on improving “work-life balance” to live a healthy life. Make it a point to visualize how you would like to spend your day and that will help solve part of the problem. The onus is on each of us to decode it and embrace the best strategy. 

Physical well-being needs attention

If the early 2010s were a precursor of fitness, gymming, and jogging, 2020 & 2021 have steadily become the years for individuals and organizations to finally understand that ensuring the physical well-being of employees is an important factor that needs constant attention. It needs ‘reinvention’ of the methods that sustained earlier.. ‘Organizational well-being’ has spread like a mantra among the C-suite and steps are being taken to execute the idea. Yoga classes, meditation sessions, fitness classes were encouraged by almost every organization last year. 

In addition, for employee safety, companies have endeavored to set up COVID-19 vaccination drives for the employees, provided reimbursement for WFH amenities, encouraged a hybrid work model by sanitizing the workplace to return to the office and booking open workspaces to join in. More than 90 percent of business leaders agree that highlighting wellness and a healthy workforce can influence morale, engagement, and corporate performance and retention.

For individuals, the "feel-good factor" became important more and more as the work from home dawned into the lives of employees. It is observed that the sedentary lifestyle has borne stress, lack of commitment, alcohol, drug abuse, and more. With the rise of anxiety and stress, people are indulging in alternative therapies like reiki, bach flower therapy, acupuncture, crystal healing, etc. The alternative healing methods served as a reinvention of classic methods for the individuals to open their boundaries when it came to healing themselves.       

Financial well-being came to the fore

There is no doubt that the financial wellness of an employee plays a key role in their happiness, satisfaction, and performance at work. Employees who are facing financial concerns at home are less likely to be engaged and motivated and more likely to change jobs more frequently to get the best compensation possible. Lack of funds, low income, or pressing financial responsibilities trigger stress, anxiety, and even depression, and the fact that employees are ill-equipped to make the best use of their remuneration only adds to the woes. The onus of inculcating employee financial wellness then must be borne by the employer, even if in part. 

Today, the majority of professionals are not only ill-equipped to make sound financial decisions, but also lack understanding when it comes to their retirement. For many individuals, home loans, children’s education, and other aspirations take the front seat; ahead of retirement planning, an inevitable stage of life. Employers can play a key role in helping their employees understand planning for various life goals and investing in them systematically through financial wellness programs. 

How are you enabling the complete health of your employees? Do share with us in the comments section.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Corporate Wellness Programs, Life @ Work, #MentalHealth

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