Coping with stress during COVID- 19

SWP contributed to a radio session in Zimbabwe with various experts on how to deal with consequences of COVID- 19.

The radio session shared coping mechanisms for COVID -19 related stress and how best to administer psychosocial support during this time. Dr. Chirisa, a leading psychologist in the country, provided additional material for how employers can support their employees’  mental health during the COVID-19 crisis.

Employers and the world of work are genuinely concerned with the impact of COVID-19 on business operations for many reasons, specifically misinformation as it can lead to increased anxiety levels in the general public and employees. This calls for employers to ensure that infomration is accurate and relayed from trusted and credible sources to reduce anxiety and stress levels within the workplace.

Why employee mental health is important for employers

As companies adjust workplaces with protective measures for employees, new realities such as teleworking, and social distancing are being established. These may have a negative impact on the wellness of employees and their productivity.  Hence, it is important for employers to provide both health and staff welfare to employees, including psychosocial support. By providing mental health support for employees, companies can have attainable levels of productivity and maintain the bottom line to ensure business continuity.

What employers can do to protect and provide psychosocial and mental health for employees:

  1. Promote trust by communicating

Employers can have regular and clear-cut communication with all staff to reduce anxiety, which may be caused by both external and internal factors.

  1. Provide psychosocial support

Employers can include psychosocial wellness support as an aspect of holistic wellness. This support can include referrals to psychologists, toll-free hotlines for psychological services, and a directory of service providers who are available to support employees during COVID -19.

  1. Promote dialogue

Employers must be mindful to keep an open line of communication with their workforce regarding expected changes  post COVID- 19. These changes, which will affect may possibly become the new reality, will affect the world of work and business operations.

What employers can do to protect mental health and provide psychosocial support  for employees

The anxiety levels of the general public and employees are high due to the amount of misinformation from unreliable sources.  This calls for employers to ensure the provision of accurate information from trusted sources to reduce anxiety and stress levels within the workplace.

Employers need to have regular and clear-cut communication with all staff to reduce some anxiety which may be caused by rumours of downsizing and retrenchments. If possible, guarantees of the continued working relationship must be made. Where there are risks of separation, measures must be put in place to ensure post separation management in order to fully prepare all for the changes which may come.

Employers must also be mindful in preparing their employees for the changes which are going to be a reality post the COVID- 19 era which will affect the world of work and various business operations.

What employees can do to avoid stress

The employees must be made aware that they have a responsibility for their own health and wee-being. Some interventions that employees practice themselves include simple measures such as:

  1. Remaining calm and ensuring that they access information from trusted sources.
  2. Following the protective guidelines which have been shared by WHO and their local governments to ensure correct and consistent use of PPE.
  3. Being self-aware of any physical or mental changes and to seeking help immediately if they recognise any changes.
  4. Utilizing resources as psychosocial support network directory and getting help when needed.
  5. Checking up on family, friends and colleagues as it is important to stay socially connected to maintain the feeling of belonging to a community during COVID-19.

Consider vulnerable groups

Employers must take into consideration vulnerable groups and establish support for these individuals. They need to be mindful to those who have a history of abusive relationships because , home is not a safe space. Where possible, employers should establish special safe places where these individuals can go to access information channels such as websites, radio shows or online support groups for their immediate safety.

Considerations must also be made for those who have disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and for those with other underlying immune-suppressing medical conditions.

Where possible, establishing toll free hotlines with well-equipped staff cannot be overemphasized. Online platforms can also be established with experts to ensure that employees can access the help they need during COVID-19. Employers are encouraged to think outside the box to protect the health and wellness of all employees.

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This executive summary presents the findings from the study “Workplace Cooperation: Finding Practical Solutions in the Colombian Context,” conducted by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The study evaluates the added value of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) dialogue and cooperation model within the Colombian labor market.

Throughout 2022, FIP dedicated efforts to thoroughly understand the SWP model, including its concept, foundations, implementation process, and contributions to the labor market. In 2023, FIP documented the experiences of three companies—SKF Latin Trade, Securitas, and Epiroc—that implemented the SWP model in practice. The study also included face-to-face workshops to gather feedback from various stakeholders including civil society, businesses, government, academia, and international cooperation. The findings suggest that the SWP model has the potential to strengthen labor relations, contribute to decent work, and resolve workplace conflicts in Colombia.

The case studies highlight the importance of collaboration between employers and workers to promote decent work and sustainable development in Colombia. They demonstrate that social dialogue facilitates worker participation in labor decision-making, enhances their representativeness, and promotes cooperation between employers and employees, thus improving labor relations and contributing to the well-being of both employees and companies.

The SWP model is particularly noted for improving workplace relationships and commitment to jointly finding solutions to challenges faced by workers and the company. It empowers workers, enhances leadership, and helps integrate business policies into daily practices, reducing the initial disconnect between management objectives and the day-to-day realities of workers. The study also highlights the model’s capacity to manage conflicts constructively, transforming the perception of conflict as an opportunity for improvement. Structured dialogues deepen understanding of the underlying causes of conflicts, fostering empathy and facilitating effective resolution. This promotes a culture of collaboration and a democratic approach to decision-making, building trust.

Additionally, the model is recognized for enabling workers to make decisions, identify challenges, and propose solutions that impact their well-being, and bridging gender gaps in the workplace. Its inclusive approach adapts to the unique needs and characteristics of each company, promoting a stronger and more diverse organizational culture. It also drives good work performance and productivity by involving workers in problem identification and resolution, as well as in implementing improvements and efficiently identifying ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) risks for companies.

The document identifies the SWP model’s added value in empowering direct interaction among labor stakeholders in Colombia, overcoming historical or cultural reservations, and contributing to the development of stronger labor relations and improved workplace environments in the country.

Challenges and opportunities of the model are also discussed. The study points out the importance of addressing value chain risks, particularly in a global context where corporate clients demand decent work processes and due diligence. It emphasizes the need to integrate SMEs into this process and use anchor companies as drivers of social dialogue throughout the value chain. The role of the state in social dialogue and the importance of highlighting the benefits of the model for adoption across various business sectors are discussed.

The opportunities of the model include raising awareness of human rights in the workplace in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), to strengthen due diligence, manage risks, promote long-term sustainability, and improve organizational culture. The document also underscores the importance of involving workers in change processes, leveraging their insights for continuous improvement of processes, and fostering innovation opportunities. Lastly, it suggests replicating the model in value chains to address work environment risks and gender biases, involving suppliers and contractors, and integrating the model into corporate policies to strengthen existing programs and transform organizational culture towards resource efficiency and effective participation of employers and workers.