COVID-19 and Mental Health in the Workplace

Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash

We’ve been running a series of webinars with Tharollo Consultancy to unpack on the changing nature of the workplace due to COVID-19. This post is a reflection on part two of the webinar series which was mainly focusing on the legal framework and emphasized on legislation relating to social protection, social security, occupational health and Safety and Workmen’s compensation.

With that, Tharollo Consultancy shared in depth on COVID-19 and examined its impact on individual employees’ mental health.

Mental health is one of the often misunderstood concepts. This is also true in the workplace. Many employers either take it lightly or treat it with indifference. This can be supported by the number of cases reported of employees who are frustrated with their workplaces. Study after study establishes this fact.

The visitation of COVID-19 has demonstrated that disregarding mental health can be detrimental to all stakeholders in the work environment.

COVID-19 has been identified as the killer virus. The panic has driven nations into lock-downs. This meant the closing down of businesses. For business owners, that translated into significant losses of cash flow.

Even worse, for some it meant restructuring their systems including recruitment processes. This led to some considering retrenchment as the only sure way to go. Some considered salary cuts.

As it is, these led to psychological breakdowns for a great many employees. People have had to restructure their lifestyles. This happened without prior warning.

In short, it left many lives disorganized. From a recent webinar, it became clear that there exists a number of stressors alongside COVID-19.

Among other things, stressors involve:

Perceptions regarding our safety

In this regard, individual workers are normally frustrated over the issues of their personal health security. This may be pertaining to the issues surrounding the affordability of the prescribed PPE (such as masks, sanitizers). This leaves the employees feeling insecure in their work contexts, especially because of the reported nature of the virus and its transmissions.

Safety of those at home

Workers are not only stressed because of their own health, they also worry about their loved ones – nonwork relationships. Because of the many reported cases of deaths, workers worry, particularly if they struggle to secure PPE for such.

Influx of daily information

Like with every new phenomenon, COVID-19 has also been infested with social media fake news. Some misinformed citizens continue to spread ruse. They’ve even condemned the reported cases of COVID-19. This has not only tempered with the security of laypeople, it has also bothered the employees.

Quarantined individuals face a degree of psychological issues. This is especially true for the internationals. Compliance with the laws can cause disorder in the life of workers.

For instance, workers in South Africa from Lesotho have to go through fourteen days of quarantine. This precedes their being allowed to work. In going back to South Africa, they have to also undergo social isolation. This can cause a great deal of frustration in their lives.

Stigma associated with COVID-19

There is a very high stigma associated with COVID-19. Employees who were once diagnosed with it can face a great deal of social isolation. They may find it hard to be reintegrated into their social circles at work. This can add overwhelmingly on the depression of the workers.

Financial loss and job insecurity

Some companies resorted to retrenchments as they’ve had to restructure their business operations. This meant financial loss and means insecurity for employees, especially if that came with salary cuts.

Mental health is one of the issues that should be reconsidered by all stakeholders in the workplace. During and after the pandemic, mental health issues will continue to call for our attention.