This article examines the impact of COVID-19 outbreak on human life specially on mental health and emotional wellbeing leading to restlessness, anxiety, psychological distress, tension and depression. So, during this crisis period organizational employer and HR people are responsible for making their people feel cosy and comfortable by creating a conducive work environment and a healthy work culture by asking continuously their wellbeing and assisting them in all possible ways during this period. Due to the lockdown and social distancing HR people are facing the issue of people-disconnect and social disconnect and people are also facing job losses, financial losses and job-insecurity too as well. So under such uncertain circumstances ,HR people are supposed to lay down a clear organizational structure with defined roles and responsibilities for each and every member to reduce their stress and also conduct a wide range of steps to integrate stress management strategies in the workplace by defining a proper management structure and leadership style ,a clear purpose, goals, and training programs on technology ,behavioural and communication areas .People need to continuously keeping and maintaining precautionary measures for safety and welfare purposes. People are strictly advised to use of mask and gloves and sanitizers to minimise the risk of transmissions. Health officials also stated that medical-grade face masks, such as N95 masks, should be used as till yet, there are no proven vaccines nor specific antiviral treatments for COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID‑19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020.Local transmission of the disease has occurred in most countries across all six WHO regions and for the first time in history ,total lockdown was declared in many cities in the world .The growing impact of the Pandemic COVID -19 crisis has really hampered the functioning of several sectors including technology, aviation, automotive, food processing industries, manufacturing industries and banking sectors, consumer electronics, travel and tourisms etc. The disruption is likely to lead to permanent shut down of many businesses and unable to bear the financial losses and disruptions caused by the pandemic. Cash flow dried up for all sectors due to lack of economic activities. Flight of manpower became a huge challenge. Organizations had to quickly change themselves to adapt to a new world order and people were supposed to be well versed and equipped by digital technology people working from home (WFH) living and maintaining social isolation. Industries are struggling with manpower surpluses, shortages, Competency gaps and Scattered positioning, so employers should look for different formats of employee engagement and different ways to get people back and maintaining the synergy.HR people are supposed to continuously ask for the well being of the people and treating them with lot of respect and valuing their contributions and also providing them all sorts of facilities .
Strategies to come out of this situation –
As the mode of organizational working has completely changed and majority of activities are performed on digital platform so HR people are required to train their people regarding technology successfully and remaining in touch with them by conducting regular staff meetings on various digital platforms to plan, solve problems amicably, recognize accomplishments, and promote staff cohesiveness. Clear communication on various plans, tasks, performance expectations with various benefits and incentives should also be promoted by HR people to create positive work culture. Employee suggestions and innovative ideas are always to be welcomed and encouraged during this time to make them feel motivated so that people should not be having any grudges during this time. Promoting an atmosphere where emotional state of people is acceptable and to be understood by concerned people and encouraged rather than making them feel stigmatized or feeling rejected.
Strong management support –Managers are facing a challenge of people disconnect and supplying right kind of energy and right attitude in people to make them feel connected to their organization during this crisis period. HR people should provide strong support to their people through feedback, open communication, and high visibility by being dynamic and supportive and thus increasing morale of all.
Tech Savvy people
During this period, people are working from home (WFH) .Pandemic COVID -19 ,as a game changer has enforced organizational employer and HR people to re-assess, redesign, rethink about embracing a new work culture anchored in global connectivity and employees are also re-oriented to learn new skill set specially technology aspect. Certain technology like cloud telephony and cloud-based document sharing have made communications among people very easy and flexible. Few startups have deployed drones and AI based robots for performing high risk jobs such as disinfecting rooms, communicating with infected people.
People Connect & engagement
People are complaining anxiety, Fear, restlessness stress, depression during this period so organizational employer and HR managers need to conduct various kinds of training programs on stress management, emotions management and maintaining work life balance, technology related programs for mental health and emotional well-being of people. Especially few areas where dearth of competencies are required at this stage so HR fraternity need to fill the competency gap and skill-gaps. From an industry relations point of view, the unions are getting restless as workers are scattered so getting those people at work with a positive mindset with proper skill-sets is also a big challenge. HR really need to look for different formats of employee engagement by redefining HR roles.
Skilling, upskilling of people
Since the new way of work needs new skills both technically and behavioral, HR needs to have strategy to address this key business issues. Restructured and redefined work roles coupled with re-skilling and up-skilling of human resources is the need of the hour.Up-skilling is learning current tasks more deeply as this is the need of the hour to learn and understand new technologies and up-skilling is unlearning old skills and learn new skills. People have to recognize that old way of working is now the thing of the past. When lockdown was declared, around 80 % people from organized sector went homeless overnight and due to the announcement of lockdown they migrated to their native places. Many people do not possess sophisticated systems along with headsets, video cameras, high-speed connectivity, and the skills to manage all. Assisting such people, by giving them training about the technology as well as availing all the facilities and also giving financial assistance to such employees is also a good way to cope up with the challenges.
People need a schedule so it is very important that employers to lay the ground-work for employeesWFH to establish and maintain normalcy. It also includes establishing and agreeing upon goals, along with regular measurement of the progress of goal achievement.This is followed up by aligning weekly priorities and milestones and everyday meetings with the employee to make them feel connected, inspired and self-motivated. It is also critical to give employees a place to feel seen and heard.
Collaboration is one of the biggest challenges and a strategy. Effective collaboration goes much beyond just ensuring that people log in for meetings and calls when they are supposed to but Spontaneous collaboration has a big role to play by welcoming employee’s innovate ideas and creative solutions and crafting a good remote work strategy by providing meeting tools, chat apps and data sharing software to them. This was also realized that during post COVID -19 period workings hours on digital platform got more increased with multiple responsibilities as compared to real work settings so there is an urgent need to initiate, encourage, and monitor work breaks and giving weekends days off specially during this period.
Managing and coping strategies with people stress –
- During these unprecedented Times, HR people need to put an extra efforts in managing their people emotions and mental wellbeing.People need to manage these stresses and emotions by making some time out for self and their loved one’s by being computer /laptop screen-free and by being calm and focussing attention in normal daily activities.
- An excess of negative news, mis-information and rumours and visual images related to pandemic and crisis period create symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and poor health so there is a need to limit COVID-19 media exposure. It is helpful to deploy the tenets of positive psychology, including resiliency, positivity, and psychological safety. Encouraging video calls and promoting casual interactions with peoplecan go a long way in reducing the sense of isolation.
- Managers need to ensure the work achievements as well as employee’s personal milestones like birthdays and anniversaries are shared and celebrated with everyone on the virtual platform. A spot of friendly competition or a shared joke can make all the difference when one is working alone all day.
- HR people can always host a virtual lunch or a dinner party using various digital platforms so that they can have a conversation with all and discuss various issues. This all creates a sense of belongingness. It’s also very important for companies to evolve and change to ensure that the workforce is rebooted and get smarter through virtual acclimatization and virtual relationship management.
- During this crisis period, there is always a need to acknowledge & appreciate the role-played various employees. Managing your employee’s mental health and psychological well-being during this time is as important as managing your physical health. And this can be done by practicing physical exercises, yoga and meditation.
- HR people should also provide flexible working environment and weekends days off to the people so that they can manage their personal & professional issues and maintain an equilibrium in their life.
- People should focus more on amplifying positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19. The employees need to keep in mind that the current situation will not go away overnight and people should focus and channelize on longer-term occupational capacity rather than repeated short-term crisis responses by ensuring good quality communication and accurate information updates.
- The concerned people should develop a protocol that workers can address the emotional aspects of their experience. Institute exit interviews and/or seminars to help workers put their experiences in perspective and to validate what they have seen, done, thought, and felt.