Today marks 11 weeks since South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown, and although the restrictions have begun to lift, it is without a doubt that households, families and individuals everywhere have been severely impacted. Many people have had to face retrenchments or pay cuts, and SME owners have received no income at all and been unable to pay their staff.

Frontline workers who have had to continue working have had to deal with the apprehension of exposure to the virus, and process changes brought about by the new onsite regulations. Those fortunate enough to work from home have had to perform their tasks amidst many challenges.

These range from conflict in confined spaces and inadequate equipment or internet speed, to the challenge of children at home and the pressure to teach them lest they fall behind. For the extroverted personalities and particularly those who live alone, there is just no end in sight concerning the ban on socialising of any kind.

At this critical point 11 weeks in, organisations are starting to “see the cracks” when it comes to the mental health and well-being of their employees, as all of these factors are weighing in heavily and affecting every one.

Urbian, a digital products, and services agency in Cape Town identified this as a very real issue and took drastic measures within their business. This was their social post from a few weeks ago:

Today we’re not working from home but resting at home. Our MP, Anton has required that our team takes 2 days of non-negotiable leave that won’t come out of the usual annual leave. He writes:

“I take this seriously and really expect you guys to take this much-needed time off.
I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it was important.”

Mental health experts have echoed this sentiment, warning that the global COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown are having a negative impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing.

So what can organisations do to help their employees cope in this time?


1. Host regular team check-ins

For many organisations, it’s not feasible to get everyone together all at the same time but for those that can, a digital session or team gathering can be enormously effective in bringing everyone together, particularly in organisations with multiple offices. It’s easy to invite guest speakers to join too, and encourage and motivate the team.


2. Conduct a wellness survey

Using employee engagement software, a wellness survey is an easy way to gather qualitative and quantitative data that will help you get a real sense of where your employees are at and what they are struggling with. This makes it a lot easier to figure out what the needs are and what the business can do to help.


3. Keep it personal

Not every company can do this, but it has meant the world to our team that the CEO has made time in his busy schedule to call all 80 employees at least once since lockdown. Larger companies could consider mandating managers to conduct personal check-ins with their teams.


4. Encourage employee-driven advice

There’s no better advice than that which comes from those in the same boat as you! Create an opportunity for team members to contribute to a shared repository of things like grocery shopping tips, fitness programs, learning systems apps, and faith-based / meditation resources etc.


5. Be more human, less robot

Practice empathy and understanding for those who are facing particularly tough circumstances. Bloomberg addresses an interesting trend that has come to the fore, where employees experience work-from-home guilt and find they are working much longer hours just because they are home.

By addressing mental health and well-being in the workplace and doing more to care for employees during this unprecedented time, businesses are likely to experience an increase in loyalty and brand advocacy as well as improved trust within the organisation.

Looking further afield when lockdown is finally over, Mind Body Green shares some insights on the Mental Health Challenges we can expect to face AFTER the Coronavirus, and tips on how to handle them.