CHINA Experts urge employers to be alert to workers' stress levels


Experts urge employers to be alert to workers' stress levels

China Daily

08:33, October 27, 2020

HR managers experience how to sympathize with others by using emotion cards at a session organized by Harmony Consulting on Sept 27, 2020. (Photo: China Daily)

Employers need to pay extra attention to their workers' mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, according to experts.

Some employees are experiencing tension and a sense of insecurity as the outbreak continues to evolve and rebound in some parts of the world, and also with the recent confirmation of some new local cases, the experts said.

In July, a survey conducted by Southeast University in Nanjing city, Jiangsu province, found that some 30 percent of people were still experiencing mild levels of stress due to the pandemic.

The survey, which polled more than 1,000 people from seven cities in five provinces, found the respondents had difficulty in concentrating, were depressed and worrying for no reason.

Fang Xiaoyi, a professor of psychology at Beijing Normal University, said that last month his team provided online psychological health sessions on coping with the pandemic. The broadcasts attracted more than 1.4 million views.

"For many people, this is their first experience of such a severe contagion, which has disrupted their everyday lives and work. They need to continue adjusting their mindsets until the pandemic eventually ends," Fang said.

Qin Hao, chief human resources officer at Linlongyun, a workforce solutions provider in Suzhou city, Jiangsu, said that since March he has used professional psychological services to assess the mental health of the private company's 300 or so employees every two months.

Immediately after the pandemic emerged, many of the employees experienced high levels of anxiety. While some 50 percent of them are now "back to normal" it is not clear whether others feel more relaxed.

Lin Zi, deputy chairwoman of the Shanghai Psychological Counseling Association, said enterprises with a large number of employees overseas, and those in industries closely related to pandemic prevention and control, should pay extra attention to employees' mental health in such challenging times.

She said one of her clients is a Shanghai hospital, which sent a group of doctors and nurses to Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, during the early stages of the pandemic.

Many of these medical workers said they experienced insomnia after witnessing the deaths of some patients despite their strenuous efforts to save them. They also felt guilty about leaving their children to go to work.

Lin said: "We helped them with group narrative therapy to release their individual pressure. We also helped them come to terms with the fact that they are facing an uncontrollable situation with collective efforts, and that it is not their fault if there are unfortunate consequences."

Fan Yao, a partner at Harmony Consulting, a Shanghai company specializing in psychological counseling, said she encouraged workers to have "humanitarian and heart-warming discussions" with their colleagues about life and work.

She also urged them to provide effective support for one another, instead of passing on unverified information about the pandemic, which could have negative results.

Qin said he reminded workers at Linlongyun to limit the amount of time they spent focusing on the pandemic every day. He said they should devote more time to pursuing their interests, such as reading, sports and listening to music, to help them adopt a positive attitude to life.

He suggested that companies adjust their employee performance assessment methods during the pandemic. To reduce anxiety, they also need to be completely honest with workers about their performance, development and any possible strategy and policy changes.

"Employees who make an extraordinary contribution to a company's business development during such an unusual time should be recognized and honored with awards to boost their sense of belonging," Qin said.

Psychological experts said companies need to cultivate a good working environment to avoid discrimination against employees from areas badly affected by the pandemic. Those with children studying in countries severely hit by COVID-19 also need extra care.

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