COVID-19 is leaving a traumatic mark on employees, regardless of whether they work from home or the office.
A recent study undertaken by IQbusiness in September 2021 found that more than 66% of office-based employees may be suffering from excessive stress, anxiety and depression. The South African study further discovered that finances, retrenchments, job insecurity, the health of family members or loved ones, and the state of the economy were all factors contributing to exceptional emotional and mental strain. While there may be no immediate line of sight into the end of the pandemic, organisations need to pay attention to these statistics or they run the risk of them hitting both their talent pool and their bottom line.
“It doesn’t matter if your people are working from home or working from the office, so many are suffering from depression that this has become the global standard,” says Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “This is further complicated by anxiety and stress, factors compounded by the issues that come with a pandemic, economic instability, war, and financial concerns. It is also being worsened by the reality that many people are watching others being retrenched around them and wondering when it will be their turn.”
At the height of COVID-19, many companies went into a complete shutdown for months, running without any income. People were expected to cut their salaries and share in the loss of profits, and it takes even longer to recover from this period of time. They had to dig into their own resources and finances to make ends meet, and are now struggling to rebuild their savings and financial stability, years later.
“So, take this situation where people are battling financially and trying to find a new footing in a strange world and now they are being told to go back to the office,” says Myburgh. “They are not only battling with a new working reality that involves masks, physical discomfort and social distancing, but now they have to add on the cost of fuel and the time spent on the commute. This is a lot to ask of a workforce that hasn’t had time to recover from any of the shocks of the past two years.”
Companies need to ask some hard questions around the need to push people back into the office, particularly as fuel prices skyrocket and the commute cuts into time they’d started spending with their families. Time that can make all the difference to a person’s mental health, engagement and productivity. If people are not protected and nurtured now, then they could simply leave or go into a depression that minimises their ability to work, or walk across to your competitor who won’t make them work these hours and in these ways.
“Companies that expect people to simply get back to the old ways of working are kicking the great resignation into even higher gear,” concludes Myburgh. “If they want build the kind of company culture that holds on to its talent and respects its people, then they need to think long and hard about how to approach workforce management over the next few years.”