The thin boundary between work and life has become increasingly blurred, which is taking a toll on employees's mental well-being, says Prachi Ghogle.
Work from Home is the biggest trend of the new world order since COVID-19.
The pandemic left businesses of all sizes with no option, but to allow and let employees WFH to ensure their safety.
Culturally, India has always resisted an adaptation to WFH culture due to constraints in space and required infrastructure set up.
This lockdown has given us time to adapt our mindsets.
However, when the lockdown began and WFH gained momentum, people thought that it was going to be easy and more flexible. But, like everything that has pros and cons, WFH came with its own set of problems that both employers and employees had to deal with.
Work from home can be equally or sometimes more stressful than working from office which has fixed hours and fixed break times.
So how does one identify a stressed employee working from home?
Look out for these signs:
1. Feelings of sadness, depression, irritation, denial and anger expressed by a co-worker
With WFH phenomenon taking lead in today's scenario, sadness, depression, irritation and anxiety has been brought to the forefront.
A sense of loneliness is created when people are just stuck at home and don't get an opportunity to meet their office colleagues and interact with them.
The normal tea-coffee break has now been replaced by Zoom and Teams call due to which employees are not getting chance to have consistent platforms to socialise with their co-workers.
2. A fatigued, dazed, or burnt out colleague
In this new normal, one of the most important things that matters is the number of roles that people are juggling through.
People have to play different roles currently at home right from household chores to managing kids.
All of these activities are in addition with the work responsibilities and deadlines.
The demand has increased on personal and professional grounds, wherein the capacity to deliver is the same.
3. Sudden lack of motivation
Co-workers are a wholesome part of any office and contribute to creating a vibrant environment, but with the global pandemic, everyone is compelled to work from home.
Everyone in today's world is worried about themselves and their loved ones catching the virus and mostly about the future and their jobs.
Many companies have been forced to lay off their working force due to financial constraints, which has built up anxiety among working personnel, directly impacting their mental health.
With such thoughts, it gets difficult for people to focus on their work because it his ultimately linked with fear and anxiety.
4. Observing more mistakes in the work of a co-worker who delivered high quality work earlier
Before the pandemic hit, team members used to sit and brainstorm together.
Post creation of a virtual working environment, things have changed tremendously.
There are higher chances of compromise in quality that are created in this scenario.
5. Mental health
Naturally, the work demand has increased exponentially -- after all, we are in a crisis situation along with the world.
Besides this, there are a series of virtual meetings and telephonic discussions, which leaves hardly any time for anything else.
The thin boundary between work and life has become increasingly blurred, which is now started taking toll on employee's mental well-being.
6. Work vs family life
COVID-19 has made work-life balance even less achievable than earlier, as working from home erased the boundaries between the time that should be dedicated to work and the time that should be reserved for oneself.
According to a survey conducted online by human resource solutions provider Genius Consultants during April-June, around 50 per cent of respondents believe that coronavirus-related lockdown has affected their work-life balance owing to salary cuts and layoffs.
7. Lack of social interactions
More than eight months have passed since the government declared lockdown to curb the infection.
Hundreds of millions of people have lived through lockdowns. Many have made the abrupt shift to working from home; millions have lost jobs.
The future looks uncertain. But, currently, the most critical part is the loss of personal connects and interactions with co-workers which is leading to depression and anxiety within the working force.
These signs and symptoms are common to notice these days.
Hence, what can an organisation, employer or a coworker do to help a stressed colleague with the above tell-tale signs?
1. Consistency in working hours and efficient allocation of work
The main cause of this dilemma on hand is that work from home has no defined hours.
Hours of operations and exit from office work is not fixed. This causes uncertainty in the mind and body of the employee leading to a complete burnout.
Hence, consistent rules regarding working only in office hours should be implemented.
Exceptions can be made for urgent deliverables and client committed timelines.
This will help streamline the schedule and give adequate time to rest and play in the schedule of an individual.
A manager is the best person to personally look into the well-being of his or her team and work allocation, to limit work to permissible limits per day and not overburden the coworker unnecessarily.
2. Do not stop the engagement
A gaping hole that has been created by the virtual work from home shift has been a reduction in employee engagement activities.
This is a core element of ensuring work life balance and a stress buster as well as a platform for team interaction outside of the work setting.
Virtual engagement activities should be organised that helps for employee interaction and involvement of their families as well in the festivities.
3. Strict adherence to leave policy -- be flexible and understanding
One of the biggest problem employees are facing these days is the lack of adequate leaves.
Employees are hesitant to ask for their leaves and employers show resistance in giving them freely.
Working from home takes a mental and physical toll on the employees just like working and commuting to office does.
Employers and managers should respect this and give due leaves and strictly follow leave guidelines followed by the company.
A stressed-out co-worker should probably be offered some leaves for them to relax, reboot and get back to work with more vigor.
4. Listen carefully, and then act
With the pandemic, stay and work from home culture has affected everyone at a deep level.
Depression is on a rise. Hence, a stressed co-worker should be lent a pair of ears.
Hearing them out, assessing their problem, offering solutions and helping them regain their momentum and efficiency at work are some easy ways to help the co-worker out.
Platforms that help employees to assess their mental health and receive counseling on an anonymous basis should be implemented by organisations.
The manager can reduce the stress by diverting some work to other colleagues, helping with time-offs and validating their feelings with empathy.
Another way to assess pain points is through regular surveys, which helps gauge company morale and areas that could be improved on.
5. Help employees prioritise and organise - through company vision and targets
Being swamped with too much work, financial constraints due to added expenses during the lockdown, familial obligations to help at home and a definite uncertainty standing tall with the pandemic still around are some factors that can lead to chaos for anyone.
A co-worker can be ably guided out of this situation by helping them organise their work, prioritising projects, helping them out with the work in small ways if possible and reducing their workload for some time till they don't sprint back.
It is essential that they are clearly conveyed the company targets in a transparent manner along with an assurance of job security based on performance.
This would go a long way in keeping the employees motivated and driven to take the organisation to the next level.
Prachi Ghogle is head HR, SIRO Clinpharm, a clinical research organisation.