Managing Mental Health And Wellness During Covid-19
The American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T) hosted a WEBINAR session on the topic “Managing Mental Health & Wellness” during the COVID-19 global pandemic on Friday 3rd April, 2020.
This particular webinar is one of a series that has been envisaged and designed by the AMCHAM T&T HSE Committee, as a means to engage with our membership and the wider public, and to provide the necessary tools to help companies create safe working conditions for their employees during this pandemic.
AMCHAM T&T CEO, Nirad Tewarie stated “As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, one issue facing each and every one of us is how to manage and react to a situation that brings a lot of stress and anxiety where the coping mechanisms are still being developed due to isolation measures that interrupt our usual social activity – and those range of course from mental health to how do we cope economically.”
“Health and Safety during these times have become even more important as we seek to protect both our physical health and psychological well-being in this crisis.”
“Until we achieve the objective of slowing the spread of the virus and containing it, we are not going to get back to any kind of normalcy, whether that be economic normalcy or social normalcy. The thing that we can do most to help is to try and limit our interactions with others and adhere to the government’s request for social distancing.”
In his presentation, Anthony Watkins, CEO of Odyssey Consulting Limited also warned that there will be major disruptions to people’s lives on all dimensions i.e. spiritual, physical, mental, social, economic and financial during the ongoing pandemic. “Many people experience themselves as their jobs. People own their job titles. People have a kind of predictability and a sense of who they are based on the work that they do. Well for many that is going to change, and it has changed.”
“People who will be out of work or on restricted incomes and who may have to pay for health care and other kinds of things in a scenario where the economy heaves in a downturn, jobs are at risk, and things are slow,” he said. “That can be a major source of disruption.”
He further went on to say that during these times we will see a range of things happening to people. “Some people are going to get quiet. Fear is going turn into fury and what may be a little moodiness may become deep depression and we may see people who in normal times be questioning and curious and challenging but that can easily shift and become blaming and shaming of other people.”
To adjust to this new reality, “we will have to accept that people will respond and react in all kinds of ways, but we will come through it,” he says. To do this he maintains that society will have to frame the experience in a different way. This means changing the way we look at the world and the work that we do and ensure that we manage ourselves in the present.
“For many organizations, it was the bottom line, the first-quarter results and the annual results, strategic plans, and direction. Where are all those things now? How do we recalibrate? What is the balance that we have to re-establish around that? And this is an opportunity to go there? How do we relate and engage with the staff and our co-workers?”
Meanwhile, Dr. Ishvan Ramcharitar, Chief Medical Advisor at Atlantic says his company has done scenario planning which assumes that there would be approximately 25% absenteeism of staff during a pandemic, as some persons or their families will get the virus and be unable to work. “Four key areas we look at is: strengthening your health barriers, scenario-based planning, communication with stakeholders and implementation of remote working.”
He advises companies to look at each level of their response and “work out what the scenario is and what the potential risks are for people and the business, and what the response would be.”
One of these risks relates to an employee’s mental health from social distancing and work from home policies. He advises that companies ought to develop more training with staff so that they are familiar with new technology as they are working at home and to ensure that they are comfortable. Employees should have a designated workspace, develop a routine and create a schedule, know when to step away from their screens, and encourage video calls and virtual coffee breaks. Employers should create a space to talk about personal challenges, lead with empathy and take a break where necessary.
“If we spend too much energy in the circle of concern - things we have no control over - we ourselves become more anxious. If we focus on our circle of influence – thing we have direct control over – your behaviours, what you can do to prevent the spread of the virus, your handwashing, staying at home, not going to the supermarkets – you focus on that and you automatically feel more empowered,” said Dr. Ramcharitar.
AMCHAM T&T’s CEO, Nirad Tewarie recommended that we should be our brother’s keepers during this time. “Where people interact – and I don’t mean physically interact – but where people help one another, know one another, and work together, the recovery time is faster and the economic and social impact is lower in times of crisis and disaster. It also helps to reduce crime.”
The AMCHAM T&T HSE Committee is one of the largest and most active committees at AMCHAM T&T, having implemented the region’s largest HSSE Conference for the past 24 years. The Committee is currently led by Cindi Nandlal, HSE manager at Point Lisas Nitrogen Ltd. and is comprised of HSE professionals across a range of sectors. This was one of a series of webinars that will be hosted by the organisation to assist members and the wider business community work through this challenging time.
For further questions or comments please contact: Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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