Covid-19, your business and the mental health dilemma

These truly are strange times…. We woke up one day and everything that we knew and loved had changed. The world needed to adjust to a new normal that entailed isolation and quarantine and other medical jargon that we had only probably heard of in movies or never at all. Suddenly, masks, social distance, sanitize, school closures, restrictions on movement, bans on social gatherings, and limitations on economic activities became the order of the day. Our human interaction has become a luxury that has seen a flood in nervousness, discouragement, terribleness and other emotional wellness related issues. There was undoubtedly mass hysteria that we are yet to recover from owing to the extensive news coverage on the pandemic. What followed was a massive strain on businesses which led to closures and even collapses.

Covid-19 dealt a number on us. And two years later, we still haven’t figured it all out.

Today’s new normal for businesses includes work-from-home difficulties, many simultaneously sick workers, disrupted supply chains, cash crunches, uncertain compliance obligations, and the mechanisms of subscribing to new government policies. Covid -19 not only disrupted our lives but also our livelihoods. Numerous businesses were forced to close down branches, downsize or shut down operations all together for sustainability-a very unsettling reality for all the employees that had to either take pay cuts or go home.

A nationally representative Business Pulse Survey implemented by the World Bank between June and August 2020, indicated that about 93 percent of firms experienced a decline of sales compared to the same period of the previous year. Sales dropped by around 50 percent in the average and medium Kenyan firms, and by more than 70 percent for one-quarter of firms. Close to 65 percent of firms experienced a decline in demand, cash flow, and available finance.

The impact of this kind of disruption to our mental wellness was something that had yet to be experienced. Mourning, segregation, loss of income and feeling of dread setting off psychological wellness conditions or intensifying existing ones. Many people continue facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety-which was to be expected given that life had to go on somehow and bills still had to be paid and other responsibilities tended to.

Hard to imagine that all the progress we had made came down crumbling in no time and that the business ventures that took so much blood and sweat to build could not withstand the tough times and those that did took a hit in one way or another. No one went unscathed.

History, however, is a testament to the resilience of the human race. Our ancestors survived great pandemics with far less resources and the technological advancement we are so blessed to have witnessed in our generation. This is how I know that even now as we attempt to live with the reality of the Covid -19 pandemic, we have the capacity to rise up and rebuild what we may have lost. As Author Jaeda Dewalt quoted, ‘’When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.” Thus we have the capacity to collectively reinvent ourselves and to reclaim the time and resources that we lost and the privilege to be alive to start over again.

It is therefore prudent that businesses build strategic resilience through conducting research that will better advice the business strategy moving forward. As we travel into the next phase, now is the time for businesses to seek out and grab the opportunities emerging in the recovery. This involves conducting an “after-action review” to collect data and insights on lessons learned from the pandemic, and then using these to prioritize actions to enhance business value today and build strategic resilience for tomorrow. Effort should also be geared towards building reservoirs that cushion the business against any unprecedented events that could destabilize the businesses again. This could be achieved by building strong partnerships and formulating collaborative measures with key stake holders such as financial partners, investors and suppliers.

Since Covid-19 reshaped consumer behavior, it is imperative that businesses deploy digital and automation technologies to ensure continuity in the event that there are more bans on physical contact. This could also create opportunities to venture out into diverse markets remotely. While its true most businesses took a hit, there still are businesses that continue to make a kill owing to their digital prowess. Creating a great social media presence also creates vast opportunities for businesses across a wide pool of potential customers.

All said and done, good mental health is absolutely fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals and the business. As we make effort to rebuild and reinvent ourselves within the business space, may we endeavor to cultivate an environment that guards the sanctity of mental wellness and thoroughly appreciates the importance of balance. This can be achieved by training leaders, managers, and all employees on how to navigate mental health at work, have difficult conversations, and create supportive workplaces. Leaders should serve as allies by sharing their own experiences to foster an environment of transparency and openness and alleviate the shame that is associated with mental health challenges. Above all, having unanimously gone through a global pandemic, may it be that we exercise gentility and encourage peer listening initiatives to promote healthy coping mechanisms.

Seems to me as though, albeit difficult, the pandemic was a call to introspect, prioritize and humanize ourselves, to slow down and enjoy the beauty that each day brings and to appreciate the resilience and fight that resides within the human frame.

Article by: Grace Macharia – Products and agency Lead at Springboard Capital Ltd.

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