Coping with stress during COVID- 19

May 28, 2020

SWP contributed to a radio session in Zimbabwe with various experts on how to deal with consequences of COVID- 19.

The radio session shared on how to cope with COVID -19 related stress and how best to administer psychosocial support during this time. Dr. Chirisa, a leading psychologist in the country supported with aspects of mental health during COVID-19.

Employers and the world of work are generally concerned with the impact of COVID-19 on business operations due to various reasons, such as misinformation which lead to increased anxiety levels of the general public and employees. This calls for employers to ensure the provision of accurate information from trusted sources to reduce anxiety and stress levels within the workplace. Employers should be advised to remain calm and ensure that they access information from trusted sources.

Why employee mental health is important for employers

As companies adjust workplaces with protective measures for employees, new realities such as telework, and social distancing is established. These may have negative impact on the wellness of employees and the productivity.  Hence, it is important for employers to provide health and staff welfare to employees, including psychosocial support. By providing mental health support for employees, companies can have attainable levels of productivity and the bottom line to ensure business continuity.

What employers can do to protect and provide psychosocial and mental health for employees:

  1. Promote trust by communicating

Employers can have regular and clear-cut communication with all staff to reduce worry which may be caused by both external and internal factors.

  1. Provide psychosocial support

Employers can include psychosocial support as an aspect of holistic wellness. This can include; providing psychosocial wellness support, referrals to psychologists, provision of toll-free lines for psychological services; provide a directory of service providers who are available to provide the support needed by employees during COVID -19.

  1. Promote dialogue

Employers to be mindful in preparing its workforce for the changes which are going to be a reality post COVID- 19 which will affect the world of work and business operations.

Other measures which employers can take include providing open lines of communication, psychosocial wellness support, referrals to psychologists, provision of toll-free lines for psychological services and provide a directory of service providers who are available for providing the support needed by employees during COVID -19.

What employers can do to protect and provide psychosocial and mental health for employees

Due to the flux of misinformation from untrusted sources, the anxiety levels of the general public and employees is high, this calls for employers to ensure the provision of accurate information from trusted sources to reduce anxiety and stress levels within the workplace.

Employers need to have regular and clear-cut communication with all staff to reduce some anxiety which may be caused by rumours of downsising and retrenchments. If possible, guarantees of the continued working relationship must be made, and where there are risks of separation, measures must be put in place to ensure post separation management in order to fully prepare all for the changes which may come.

Employers must also be mindful in preparing all for the changes which are going to be a reality post the COVID- 19 era which will affect the world of work and various business operations.

Other measures which employers can take include providing open lines of communication, psychosocial wellness support, referrals to psychologists, provision of toll-free lines for psychological services and where possible provide a directory of service providers who are available for providing the support needed by employees during COVID -19.

What employees can do to avoid stress

The employees must be made aware that they have a responsibility in protecting their health. Some interventions that employees can take up for themselves include simple measures such as:

  1. Remaining calm, ensuring that they access information from trusted sources.
  2. Ensure that they follow the protective guidelines which have been shared by WHO and their local governments to ensure correct and consistent use of PPE.
  3. To be self-aware of any physical or mental changes and to seek help immediately.
  4. Employees who have been provided with psychosocial support network directory should not hesitate to use those numbers to get help when they need it.
  5. Check up on family, friends, colleagues as it is important to stay connected an maintain the feeling of belonging to a community during COVID-19.
Consider vulnerable groups

Employers must put into consideration vulnerable groups and establish support for such individuals. They need to be mindful to those who have a history of abusive relationships because for them, home is not a safe space. Where possible, establish special places where they can go to access information such as websites, radio shows or online support groups for their immediate safety.

Considerations must also be put in place for those who have disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and for those with other underlying immune-suppressing medical conditions.

Where possible, establishing toll free hotlines with well-equipped staff cannot be overemphasized. Online platforms can also be established with experts to ensure that employees can access the help they need during COVID-19. Employers are encouraged to think outside the box to protect the health and wellness of all employees.

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