Blogs at Consocia

Strengthening employee wellness in the wake of COVID-19

The impact of the Corona virus has created a strong need for companies to overhaul their initiatives towards employee wellness. According to health experts, sudden changes of habits resulting from prolonged work from home, worry about self and family members and enforced isolation are all significant mental and physical pressures which can lead to stress and physical ailments. Companies are reevaluating the measures they can take in order to help their employees stay sharp, healthy and productive.


I recently saw an interview of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson, Biocon where she shared her views on the care required for the lifting of the lockdown and gave the 3 T mantra of aggressive testing, tracing and treating. She also stressed that livelihoods are also very important and we need to start a planned exit which strikes a balance between lives and livelihood.  


Companies should also keep an Emergency Response Protocol well prepared with various guidelines that can mitigate problems and guide employees on what needs to be done in case any COVID 19 case is detected among employees. These guidelines should be circulated to all and should include the government instructions on the do’s and don’ts for all employees. Clearly, office administrators need to be careful to sustain the best hygiene practices that can create a safe working environment for all employees.


At Consocia Advisory, today was our first working day back in the office after over two months. While working from home still continues for some associates, we have set up hygiene and safety protocols at the office. We ensure vacant space between each employee and have sanitisation of surfaces multiple times a day. We are also following strict social distancing in conference rooms, meal areas and other common areas to ensure that employees are protected and kept safe.


Now many companies are opening their offices after having started their manufacturing operations and some of them are setting examples to show the way in preventive hygiene practices at the workspace. The way the social distancing norms have come up by the Shopping Centers Association Of India, (SCAI) is very comforting and exemplary. They will be controlling the entry and exit of the number of footfalls in the malls and will only allow 78 sq feet per person as a part of the social distancing norms.


Companies are using employee communications to drive and sustain awareness about their wellness programs. Several companies are providing free medical consultations to their employees and their families so that they can get advice on simple health measures related to diets, food, exercise and other medical queries. Besides the services of doctors, companies are also hiring nutritionists which can help individuals and families achieve healthy balanced meal plans.


Companies are also hiring mental health experts like clinical psychologists as many employees have behavioral and attitudinal changes due to the experience of a prolonged work-from-home for the first time. The strain of sitting at one place sans interaction with teams and colleagues can be very demotivating for many employees. Calls and video conferences have only a limited role in uplifting the morale while working from home, opine experts.


Important stress busters that can make a significant impact are yoga and meditation opine experts. They help in providing agility and calm the mind so that the impact of the stress factors is diluted. Companies are connecting employees with professionals who can train them in these stress busters. Often, there are enough capable people in house who can double up on the role of training employees. 


Telemedicine and online consultation of doctors enable employees and families of employees to consult medical professionals without leaving their homes. This helps employees and families get access to good quality medical help even if they are staying in remote locations.


The emerging trend of virtual fitness sessions, where employees can attend fitness programs online is growing rapidly. Virtual fitness allows thousands of people to take advantage of high quality trainers and also choose training programs best suited to their needs. In fact, online training may offer a far higher number of choices. Companies are connecting their employees to such training programmers. 


Fitness and health apps are the latest fitness tools that health enthusiasts use to keep track of fitness regimen, which may include reminders for exercise, hydration, stretching food and sleep.  Additionally, there are even mindfulness apps which help in reminding people to do mindfulness exercises like deep breathing exercises etc.  Experts say proper use of these apps can help the efforts to be more self-aware about healthy practices.  Some companies which have large employee strength, have gone to the extent of creating employee help desks with 24×7 advice. This can be used by employees to take information about symptoms and nearest treatment centers etc.


The thread which can bring together these various initiatives is a robust employee communications program. Periodic engagement with employees via team and individual calls, video meetings, emailers from the company have to be initiated and sustained so that employees do not feel disconnected from the office environment or feel that their efforts are not being recognised. One should be able to remove the fear and create the right environment for a safe work environment in the office. Special rewards and recognition programs for those who come forward and help in removing and mitigating the fear will boost company morale considerably. For communicators, this is a time to strengthen internal communications as employees are likely to be subjected to fake news. Speed will be essential to ensure that everyone is well versed on the present situation in the company and employee redressal will be critical.