Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Productivity is not the need of the hour; Mental Health is!


Productivity during COVID isolation

The lockdown caused by coronavirus pandemic has led several companies to subtly shift to work from home policy. However, the expectation to be more productive even in remote working conditions is still a reality for many employees. The objective is to get the job done and often there is less importance given to understanding the psychological impact of the pandemic on the workforce. Undoubtedly this adds stress to the managers too, who not only need to handle their stress but also are in a position to make sure that the team feels assured at this uncertain time. While its ideal of being productive at work is important, however mental health is far more important. 

Home is the current office -


Every employee develops a certain affiliation towards their workspace. Modern workspaces are designed ergonomically to foster optimum working conditions for the employees. Whereas home is meant to be a place of relaxation. This juxtapose creates a contradictory environment for work. Firstly, not everyone can afford a workspace at home. Secondly, external factors such as unreliable internet connections can cause technical difficulties while engaging in work. Even the ones with decent workspace at home do not have ergonomically friendly chairs, tables, or lighting which in turn can cause physical strain. Those who are thrown into the situation are still getting adjusted to the home office.

Endless work hours –  


In remote working conditions, it is assumed that the employees are available the entire day to work and are being contacted whenever it is necessary by their peers or managers.  Scheduled office work hours seem to have disappeared in the work from home setting. Such uncontrolled work culture can create high stress because it is impossible to structure each day. Being at home in isolation also adds additional personal work of taking care of kids, family and performing household chores like cooking, cleaning, etc., Often employees skip meals, or have to resort to working nonstop just to catch up with both work and personal commitments causing them a lot of anxiety.

Invasion of privacy -


Work from home often requires employees to connect to a video conference portal to discuss work and take part in group meetings. Although video calls help in virtual communication, its no substitute for the in-person interaction. Often workers don’t express themselves fully on virtual communication setting. In addition to this, video conferences can expose an employee’s home atmosphere which can affect the privacy of an employee. In simple terms, It is an invasion of workers private space.  Home cannot be an office and it does need to be.  Videos calls can provide unintended visual, audible clues about the employee to his/her work counterparts. In some cases, it can lead to emotional distress and poor performance.

The glooming uncertainty -


At this quarantine period, each of us is processing the trauma differently. It is natural to have concerning thoughts about the risk of infection of self and our loved ones, financial hardship, etc., which affects the ability to concentrate at work.   We are all getting emotionally exhausted consuming news updates about COVID-19.  Some may even have lost their family member to the pandemic and suffering secretly. The peer pressure to stay normal during work from home increases the risk of mental breakdown.

Feeling of isolation –


Recreation aspects of work atmosphere like team-building exercises, pool tables, pantry, etc. help to improve social interaction between coworkers.  However, due to the nature of the shutdown,  we can’t go out and it prevents us from engaging in any social activity. This forces us to experience a state of loneliness.  Time invested in extracurricular activities holds the ability to execute our work well and can alleviate quarantine distress. Being isolated at home decreases any chance of such activities and in turn increases the risk of mental health issues.

In summary 


The expectation to be productive while working from home can provide short term benefits to the organization however it can have a long-term effect on the mental state of its employees.  As a community, we are going through a traumatic experience. On top of that, employees have additional pressure of being productive while coping up with the pandemic.  This is a ticking time bomb and needs to be addressed. We need to create a work culture that is inclusive of employees’ mental health. However, work from home is going to be our new normal for the foreseeable future. In the forthcoming blog article we will discuss ways the organization can make a difference and ensure the well being of its workforce.  Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts on this article.


Kiruba

Solution Consultant



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