Leliana Valentina Parvulescu

What happens to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

What company executives need to know

Leliana Valentina Pârvulescu, PhD
Psychologist, Behavioral analysis expert

We live in an age of extraordinary and rapid change. The COVID-19 pandemic gave us a great challenge, that of learning to adapt, quickly, day by day. Companies face losses, financial uncertainty, problems with business partners, suppliers or the imminence of closing the business. How organizations, large or small, will survive depends on many factors. But in the struggle to regain ground in such a changing landscape, company executives must not overlook the most valuable asset: employees.
The pandemic not only disrupted the company’s activities. It has profoundly affected the psychological well-being of every employee, from those who risk their lives, such as front-line health workers, to those who work from home every day due to isolation measures. As stress levels increase, it is harder for employees to focus, so it is essential for employers to know where it is most difficult for them to help them adapt to change. Unlike other crises, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a single event, it is a constantly evolving crisis, it is difficult to estimate what psychological support interventions will be needed in the short and long term. Mental well-being is a constant challenge for many, even in the best of times. In fact, mental disorders worsen in times of crisis, epidemics and calamities cause a dramatic increase in stress and behavioral changes.
Psychological helplines, for example, for panic problems saw a 338% increase in calls in March, April, May compared to February. Also, various studies have shown that after the advent of COVID-19, many employees working from home have reported experiencing moderate to extreme stress.
Loss of productivity due to stress-related problems is a negative factor for the worker and increasingly counterproductive for companies. In 2019, before the pandemic, the World Health Organization estimated that depression and anxiety in the global economy consume trillions of dollars a year. It is difficult to imagine what the effects of the pandemic will be in 2020.

What happens to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic
Leliana Parvulescu

Thus, it is essential for employers to focus on the mental well-being of employees and to give priority to initiatives in this regard. Helping staff learn to cope and become more resilient is an important goal. But the first step is the organizational diagnosis of the company. Analyzes are effective when they are based on relevant data to build their business strategy for employee well-being and health. With the right data, it is easy for the employer to measure what is most important to the organization and to have a solid picture of the areas that have the most help. Therefore, capitalizing on data to improve staff mental health is essential. And this priority is of fundamental strategic importance. Many of the workers suddenly switched to another way of working that gave them the feeling of losing control of aspects of work and relational daily life. In addition, many have experienced a strong sense of uncertainty about their personal, professional and economic future, threatened by the pandemic.
Returning to work or alternating between work in the company and work from home is a stress factor, mainly for two reasons, concern for personal safety and difficulties in readjusting to the office routine. The spread of the virus in Romania and in the world is a problem that we have not yet solved definitively and that will continue in the next few months. Workers will have to be constantly informed, listened to by qualified specialists in this regard.
Faced with an invisible threat, such as that posed by a virus, people tend to take responsibility for spreading the infection to the behavior of others. However, at the relational and collegial level it can generate a climate characterized by suspicion, mistrust and avoidance of social contacts. Spaces, activities and working groups must encourage flexibility, autonomy, collaboration and innovation.
As a result, from my point of view, employers have a particularly important role to play in keeping the company in balance to withstand all these changes. That is why their attention must be focused primarily on subordinate staff.

What happens to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic
What company executives need to know

Leliana Valentina Pârvulescu, PhD
Psychologist, Behavioral analysis expert

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