Impact on mental health after returning to work
The impact of lockdown last year had both positive and negative impacts on our society. At a time where there was no vaccine in sight, it was the best way to fight the spread of this virus. However, a huge cost was incurred to undertake this plan. Apart from financial losses, emotional drainage was also a major challenge faced by all.There was fear of losing loved ones to the pandemic. It entailed immense anxiety and emotional stress.
It has been observed that 55% of young people had spent more time reflecting last year.The lockdown was processed by different age groups, organizations, cultures with different kinds of emotions and ways The pandemic has brought along with it a lot many changes across the globe in drastic ways and has affected our lifestyle and deeply altered our social and work environment.
In this scenario, people are experiencing different emotional changes with a lot of ‘what-ifs’. Where some feel excited at the outlook of returning to work, as usual, while others are apprehensive about how is it going to be, and some are not sure of how they are feeling. Fear, depression, anger, and anxiety have been seen as real consequences of this pandemic coupled with months of lockdown.
This increase in mental health issues is said to be due to numerous reasons, such as the fear of being infected by Coronavirus, or becoming a vector of the disease, the fear of being discriminated, concerns about the health of loved ones, long periods of isolation and quarantine, new working environments creating an “always-on” culture where there is a hardly any distinction between work and personal life, fears about job securities and financial concerns, added with responsibilities of caring for children or homeschooling them while juggling with home chores and professional responsibilities.
Returning to work post lockdown has been marked by symptoms of anxiety and stress due to prevailing concerns like travelling to work or being at work, uncertainty for what lies ahead and having to adapt to yet another new way of living. They have impacted not just the mental health but the physical aspect as well, where people are facing difficulty sleeping or eating, increase in alcohol consumption or substance use and worsening chronic conditions.
In this scenario, promoting the development of reliable preventive approaches is essential. The use of coaching psychology can be considered a valid strategy to lower burnout levels and create a safe environment in which individuals can feel free to discuss their professional development and understand how to improve their resources to overcome obstacles, such as the new challenges caused by the COVD-19 pandemic. Employers should support their staff, psychologically, to rejoin offices in a safe and conducive environment by the following steps:
- Right Communication: Employers should ensure that the environment that their staff is stepping into is the best that is offered. With health and safety measures displayed at the right places and observing sanitization drills will build that trust in them. Managers should recognize the circumstances that can trigger anxiety or stress symptoms and avoid them.
- Extending Support: Every person is different w.r.t the triggers of anxiety or stress. Employers should relook at these and extended support on an individual basis. Many organizations are providing, in-house psychological counselling to help relieve this stress.
- Be vigilant: In case any employee exhibits a behaviour change, it could be indicative of mental health issues. Managers should be trained on the potential signs of poor well-being and mental health, as well as how to handle a disclosure of a mental health condition. If managers become aware of a potential issue, employers should not delay and arrange for the individual to be referred, as soon as possible, ideally to a clinical specialist to ensure the appropriate support can be provided from the outset.
It is important that employees feel safe and cared for in an organization, as they make the transition back to work amid many unknowns. Even though all have been impacted by COVID-19, everyone’s situation is different. It is essential that organisations provide an environment of productivity, empowerment, and health. Embrace an employee-first mindset, which will help them create a workplace that promotes psychological well-being during these unprecedented times.