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How companies are helping employees feel better amid coronavirus scare

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, people are anxious about themselves, their jobs, access to basic resources, and the guilt about their old parents living alone in their home town or just the uncertainty of it

Sonal Khetarpal        Last Updated: March 31, 2020  | 02:28 IST
How companies are helping employees feel better amid coronavirus scare

Alpana Kulkarni (name changed) lives alone while her 5-year-old son lives with his grandparents. Since the lockdown Kulkarni has not been able to meet him. Last week she nearly had a breakdown out of sheer helplessness and frustration of the current situation. She says, "I don't know how long I can go without seeing him. While I talk to him on phone, I want to touch and hug him," she says.

A lot of people today live alone and are facing isolation and loneliness. "What is coming out is human contact by meeting people is not the same as virtual connect. People are craving for the human touch and human contact, says Dr Sapna Bangar, psychiatrist and head, Mpower.

The lockdown has put people in a lot of unprecedented situations. There is always a first but too many of them one-after-another gives a feeling that the ground is slipping away. The lockdown due to COVID 19 has put people across the globe on thin ice on many fronts. People are anxious about themselves, their jobs, access to basic resources, and the guilt about their old parents living alone in their home town or just the uncertainty of it.

"We are getting a spike in people reaching out to us due to anxiety caused by the uncertainty related to the pandemic," says Puneet Manuja, co-founder of mental health startup YourDost. "People are worried not just about the pandemic but also its indirect impacts on their life, work and family."

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To help employees and their families maintain their sense of balance and well-being amidst all the negativity, several companies like Hindustan Unilever, Schindler India, Mondelez India are providing counselling and psychiatric assistance to ensure they manage their lives better.

Hindustan Unilever through its partnership with employee well-being solutions provider Workplace Options (WPO) offers its employees counselling services to help them better manage any issue that could be impacting them.

"Yes, in the time of coronavirus lockdown the calls received by WPO have increased and the need for telephonic counselling has been recognised more by our employees. WPO is not only able to manage the increased number of calls but is providing a 24x7 counselling in nine regional languages," said HUL spokesperson. The consumer goods major is also providing a number of mindfulness and wellbeing learning sessions through their online learning platform due to the increasing stress resulting out of the new normal - work from home set up.

Escalators and elevators firm Schindler India has partnered with mental health organisation Santulan so its employees and their families can seek e-counselling or telephonic guidance to deal with life's expected and unexpected events. Shubha Arora, Chief People Officer, Schindler India & South Asia says, "Happiness, well-being and fulfilment for achieving productivity at the workplace are all linked and thus, taking care of employee's mental health and well-being is as important as other preventive measures to fight the outbreak of COVID-19."

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Mondelez India, in addition to online medical consultations as well as access to a psychologist, is sharing resources with its workforce on programs on mediation. Even programmes on remote working as well as building "connections" with remote teams are being pushing to ease the transition of new way of working from home. "While these are testing times for everyone around the globe, this is also an opportunity for us to come together and look out for each other.

"As our colleagues face this situation - we acknowledge the unprecedented nature of the challenge it puts everyone in - personally, professionally and in many ways resilience, care, collaboration and agility are all critical for us to emerge," says Mahalakshmi R., Director - Human Resources, Mondelez India.

She adds the other simple practice that has helped is called "check-ins" (where colleagues share their thoughts and feelings as they get into any meeting) is helping colleagues connect with each other in a human way - even on Skype or Zoom calls - to  ensure they are ok. Additionally, the leaders are going out of the way to communicate more with the teams. For example, functional leaders and geography leaders are doing not just formal but personalised and team connects.

Some companies have opened up their services to wider audience. Remote doctor consultation service provider vHealth by Aetna India, is providing free access to its virtual doctor consultation service till April 15. People from across the country can access confidential medical consultations by telephone and video through the toll free number without travelling to a clinic or hospital.

GOQii the smart-tech-enabled preventive healthcare is creating content related to home workouts, yoga, meditation, nutrition, and users can have access to medical shows by experts and doctors. The rationale is to help have a wholesome approach of physical and mental well-being

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