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Exclusive Article

Worker’s well-being, by Gabrielle Botelho

05/04/2020 | 19h02
Worker’s well-being, by Gabrielle Botelho
Divulgation Divulgation

Never before, have I read, heard or written the expression “unprecedented”, as often as now. This expression has been widely used to describe the current global crisis, it is important to highlight, the biggest crisis in our history, generated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are currently experiencing collective mourning, where we face the physical death of loved ones and also the symbolic death of our "freedom", of our daily "coming and going", due to the isolation, necessary to contain the spread of the virus, in our country. The Kübler-Ross Model describes the grieving process in five phases, which the individual goes through to be able to elaborate his/ her loss, they are: denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance.

It is still possible to identify many people in the process of denial (“Covid-19 is just a flu, nothing much”), anger (“we will survive Covi-19, but not the crash of our economy”), and negotiation (“we need to come back to our normal life”). However, many people are already showing signs of depression (manifested through reports of lack of energy and discouragement) and even acceptance (people who have adapted to isolation and are able to support others in this process).

In this scenario of constant and complex change, organizations have a fundamental role and can help their employees in the process of adapting and accepting this new reality, imposed to everyone. After the first phase of this crisis, called “response phase”, we realize now that organizations are trying to “recover”, establishing cost reduction measures, in order to “sustain” and “project” a future, in this new global context of business.

During the response phase, organizations had to organize themselves quickly to implement practices focused on the well-being of their employees and the continuity of their business. Below I share some of these practices, which have already been or are still under development.

Implementation of home office scheme 

In the labor reform (Law 13.467 / 2017), one of the main changes was the regulation of teleworking that had not yet been addressed by the CLT. Despite the reform, few companies had implemented the new work regime in a systematic way. However, with the pandemic generated by the new coronavirus, companies have quickly migrated to the regime and developed booklets to guide their employees, reinforcing the topics below:

1. Explanations about the current moment and the importance of respecting the isolation period; 

2. What personal care needs to be taken to avoid contagion with Covid-19; 

3. Remote connection and information update with companies; 

4. Update on technological tools, which are available and which should be used during the working from home period; 

5. How to organize a work environment at home; 

6. Tips on how to work efficiently and flexibly from home.

For many employees from back office positions, this is the first time that they have been operating under teleworking. In addition to that, it is a completely atypical moment, since the family is also at home, and all the time. Thus, coordinating the time between work, home and family can be a great challenge.

Establishing a work routine at home and communicating with your manager and colleagues which are the hours of day you will be connected and working, can help to reduce stress and the feeling of being "late" with your activities. It is also important to create the habit of making a “to do list” whenever you start and end your workday, so that if you do so, you will be able to keep up with what still needs to be done

Implementation of leadership guide

The complexity, speed and transformation that organizations are facing today with the Covid-19 pandemic, brings us to a new challenge: develop leaders and managers capable of supporting and guiding their employees during times of crisis.

In this complex scenario, organizations must have leaders who can lead in times of uncertainty, bringing balance and security to their teams. The leadership guide provides some tips on how to manage the team in times of crisis:

1. Align expectations: In this teleworking model, management is based on performance indicators (setting deadlines for deliveries) and no longer on day-to-day control. Hence, a conversation is necessary to align the deliveries: daily, weekly and monthly by which employees will be evaluated for;

2. Establish transparent processes: it is important to align which times of the day will be the team meetings and individual meetings, since employees could choose alternative work schedules. Establish an open and daily communication channel.

3. Build trust: A leader play a crucial role in establishing a culture of trust in the team: involving each team member, recognizing individual performances and giving the opportunity for all to shine.

4. Strengthen team spirit: maintaining motivation and a good mood in the team is essential during periods of crisis. The message that needs to be sent is clear: we are all together and, as a team, with each one doing their part, we will overcome any challenge that will be presented to us.

5. Demonstrate availability: working from home and in isolation can be challenging for some people. So offering support and being available to the team, to talk about concerns and difficulties as well as sharing experiences is very important.

6. Add moments for fun in the work routine: remind the team that it is necessary to disconnect from work and have some fun. A "Virtual Happy Hour" or a "Virtual Breakfast” could be a good opportunity to stay together and relax.

7. Taking care of the team: Maintain a positive attitude and be available to talk about anything, whenever the team needs. Be attentive to the reactions and responses of each employee.

8. Take care of yourself: Being supportive to the team during the teleworking and isolation period is important, but remember to respect your own limits and take care of yourself first. Identify someone to be your “safe haven”, a person you trust, to whom you could talk and relax.

E-learning and the use of technology tools

E-learning has been practiced for a long time, as the main form of training for the offshore regime, for example, among other areas. However, what we are experiencing today is very different, once some companies are operating 100% on a teleworking regime, for example. In this scenario, the challenge is how to stimulate learning, in an environment of crisis and insecurity, in which people are focused on their “survival” in the short term.

In this scenario, what many companies have done so far is to create content and share information about skills and behaviors that help to face the crisis, sharpening the curiosity of “how to do it”, better preparing employees at this difficult times.

For some time now, specialists have been discussing the future of work and new technologies that could be used to stimulate “digital thinking” and the “growth mindset” model in the organizations. In the current scenario, despite of all concerns with network security, several companies have adopted the use of technological tools, to shorten distances and keep people connected, during the teleworking and isolation period.

Some widely used tools are: MS Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, among others. Understand by “be connected”, not only with regard to work related activities, but also, personal life. Companies are reinforcing the importance of keeping in touch, by phone, video calls or messages, with friends and family, who can help us to take care of our mental and emotional health.

Implementation of mental health guide 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorders affect 30% of workers and are the main cause of disability today. Currently, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, considered by WHO as the “evil of the century”.

In Brazil, about 33% of the population has a mental health problem, including stress, depression and anxiety, for example. This is one of the main causes of sick leave requests in Brazil.

We are increasingly discussing mental health within organizations. Many companies have adopted campaigns that promote awareness on the topic and deal with suicide prevention (Yellow September, for example). At this moment, when we are going through long periods of isolation and confinement, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, attention must be redoubled. Therefore, the creation of a mental health guide for employees, which addresses the following topics:

1. Avoid too much information: too much information can cause constant anxiety spikes. Choose a reliable source of communication to update yourself and seek to read and research on other subjects, not just the pandemic. Avoid passing on information from unknown sources, thus avoiding the spread of the so-called “fake news”;

2. Keep moving: Physical activities, dancing, yoga, among others, can help you to reduce stress and anxiety. Don't forget to drink lots of water and maintain a healthy diet. Your body appreciates it;

3. Establish a routine: Maintaining a well-balanced routine is fundamental to mental health. It is necessary to learn how to find a balance between professional and personal life even in isolation, instituting when your work day starts and ends, setting breaks for coffee, stretching and even to play with your children;

4. Connect with people: We are in physical isolation, not social. Even at a distance, we can stay close to the people who matter, such as family and friends, and who can help us through difficult times. Prioritize calls or video calls, it is a good opportunity to receive and distribute smiles;

5. Practice empathy: We need, more than ever, to put ourselves in the other's shoes. At this time, the elderly, children and the population in the most vulnerable areas need special attention. Offer emotional support to them. There are several social initiatives being done now that you can support, even from distance;

6. Think positively: try to focus on good things and cultivate positive thoughts! Fear and panic at this time can be the cause of our anxiety. There are techniques that can help to control anxiety and our breathing, among them, the daily practice of meditation;

7. Ask for help if you need to: remember that you are not alone. Ask for help, talk to your manager and family, say you are having trouble dealing with isolation. Together we are stronger and we will be able to face this crisis.

In 2019, WHO, in partnership with the World Federation for Mental Health, established the "40 seconds of action" guide, which reminds us of the importance of solidarity and of paying attention to the people around us.

According to the WHO, in 40 seconds, among other things, it is possible:

  • Talk to someone and ask how they are feeling;
  • Convey messages about the importance of taking care of our mental health and collaborating to prevent suicide;
  • Communicate to employees about resources available in the workplace or in the community to deal with mental suffering;
  • Disseminate public policies adopted by government agencies to promote mental health and suicide prevention.

We are facing a new reality, and the world as we knew it before, no longer exists, it is evolving. And that brings me to Darwin's Theory, in which he mentions that: “it is not the strongest that survives, but the one that best adapts”. To continue evolving as a specie, we need to adapt to the new conditions in our environment.

I particularly have a positive view of what we are experiencing now. Just like Tedros Adhanom, General Director of the World Health Organization, who believes that this is an “opportunity to unite as humanity, to work, to learn and to grow together.” I also believe that we will emerge from this crisis, stronger as individuals, organizations, society, countries and better as humanity.

What about you? Have you reflected on what your days have been like? What have you been doing to take care of yourself? The first step is always self-knowledge. Take a good care of yourself first, and then you will be able to take care of others. Be safe!

“The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the author’s employer.”

About the author: Gabrielle Botelho is HR Director responsible for South America at CGG, where she is leading several HR initiatives to develop a people-centric, high-performance organization that emphasizes lifelong learning and innovation.

Prior to CGG Gabrielle worked at Equinor (formerly Statoil) for 7 years in different HR managerial positions. In her last role, she was in charge of Organization & Leadership Development working on build the capabilities for the future and digital transformation. Before Equinor, she was a Senior HR Manager at L’Oréal Brazil.

Gabrielle studied Psychology at Rio de Janeiro Federal University and holds a MBA in Business from FGV-Rio. She is currently pursuing a Strategic Human Resources Master’s degree from London School, she is a member of SHRM and ISFP. In 2020, she will be one of the speakers of The HR Congress, one of the biggest and most important congresses in the world, together with great researchers and authors as Dave Ulrich.


Font: Gabrielle Botelho
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