[B-SIDE Podcast] Are you okay? Treating the workforce as human beings, not just human resources

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The eight-month lockdown, one of the longest in the world, has kept much of the country’s workforce at home. Separation from colleagues, coupled with fears of the virus, has raised the level of anxiety among the working population. 

Nikki Vergara, co-founder and chief well-being officer of Positive Workplaces, a training and consultancy organization, tells BusinessWorld reporter Jenina P. Ibañez what individuals and companies can do to promote psychological well-being in the workplace (whether that means the office or the home). 

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The absence of mental illness is not the same as mental health.

Those who feel unable to function normally should be given access to psychology professionals that can help. 

This is particularly important because Filipinos are now experiencing additional stressors—such as worries about their health and the government’s response to the virus—while having fewer ways to cope because of the lockdown.

“Social ties help us cope with the most difficult parts of life. In the past, we could rely on hanging out with each other,” said Ms. Vergara. 

Workers have different ways of coping with a work-from-home environment.

Workers at home have been staying in the same space throughout the day, blurring the lines between their job and other parts of their lives.

The biggest complaint among employees, said Ms. Vergara, is that “people are unable to stop working. Citing a Google study, she advised knowing what kind of person you are—a segmentor or an integrator

Segmentors distinguish work hours from leisure time while intergrators switch back and forth throughout the day. The former must identify and communicate specific hours reserved for work, while the latter must ensure they get enough reset.

Companies must then measure the well-being of their employees and be aware of the well-being issues among their workforce. If the lockdown has removed positive reinforcement measures from the company, the organization must find new ways to commend their employees.

Managers must be open to feedback, intentional about praise.

Filipino workers are inclined to work hard despite low salaries or hard conditions because they are afraid to lose their jobs. They are also hesitant to talk about their needs to sustain mental health and offer feedback about tasks, especially given a hierarchical workplace.

Managers must be open to getting feedback from employees, especially because they need to find out if the tasks they assign are doable given the pandemic.

“In uncertainty, two-way feedback is important,” Ms. Vergara said, adding that managers should rethink the way they reassure employees. “Complimenting is no longer the natural thing. Under lockdown, managers should be more intentional about praise.”

Recorded remotely on October 22. Produced by Nina M. Diaz, Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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