In a time where there is so much uncertainty and people’s worlds are turning upside down overnight, it has become increasingly important to take note of how all these events affect our lives and our health, especially our mental health.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the Nigerian economy is to shrink by 3.4%, which may lead to a recession that is predicted to last until 2021. This is because of the double barrage from the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp fall in international oil prices that ensued. All these estimations have led to Nigerian organisations taking steps to curb the negative effect of this anticipated recession on their business operations through layoffs, pay cuts, and other measures.


As important as it is to look at the bigger picture, it is even more important to go more granular and look at how these events affect the people that must live through it. Below are some tips on how both organisations and their employees can improve mental health during this period:


For Organisations:


1. Create a supportive environment

With so much uncertainty, it is important to ensure your staff are aware that you are available to support them in any possible way. Create channels for communications to encourage sharing and remove any fear or stigma against mental health. Flexible work policies and patterns are vital at this time as employees fear for their safety. Working remotely and eliminating hours of daily commute may help boost productivity and ensure employees focus better.


2. Assign official firm holidays

Working from home has made the idea of a holiday seem foreign as employees spend the majority of their time in their homes. However, a survey by Airtasker shows that 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance. Which means there is a difficulty in shutting down at the end of a workday while working remotely, leading to employees overworking without any proper break. Hence, it is important for firms to assign official firm holidays or design a schedule per division which allow employees to get official breaks to recuperate.


3. Provide resources to support redundant staff

With the current situation, cost optimisation is key for both employees and organisations.  This may lead to mass staff redundancy in a bid to manage cash and stay in operations. While tough decisions like this must be made, organisations should aim to provide the redundant staff with as much support as is feasible. This can be in the form of monetary (cash) or non-monetary (referrals) resources. This action affects both existing and redundant employees because it shows that the organisation values its employees, and although the current situation raises uncertainty, they are willing to do all they can to provide support.


4. Invest in growth opportunities

With the ever-changing circumstances, it is key to keep employees truly equipped to add value to the business. However, in a bid to save costs, the traditional training opportunities may not be ideal. Organisations should identify other options to build their employees’ knowledge and ensure they stay relevant during this period. It may also be a good time to learn from employees what ideas they have and how they would implement those ideas.


For Employees:


1. Avoid information overload

With changes occurring almost daily, there is a need to stay informed and assimilate a lot of information at a time. However, as important as it is to stay informed, it is equally important to avoid information overload. This happens when an individual takes on so much information that it begins to have a detrimental effect on them. Ensure you take breaks from watching the news and instead watch movies, enjoy a casual chat with friends and families, and play with your children.


2. Focus on the positive

With a lot of negative news spreading across the world, it is easy to start dwelling in negativity. In those moments, you must find the positive aspects of life and focus on those instead. It may help to keep a journal with daily entries on what you are grateful for so in moments of negativity you can read through your entries to relive happy memories and hopefully clear the clouds in your mind.


3. Make use of your leave days

As mentioned earlier, with the recent adoption of work from home and limited office days, it may seem like there is no need to utilise your leave days. This should not be the case. Now, is the time to take a break. With all the work that came about with adjusting to the shift created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a well-deserved break is necessary, and this can be taken during your leave.


4. Stay engaged and relevant

It is easy to let the current situation allow us to justify being disengaged and complacent. It is however essential to fight through those feelings because now more than ever, staying engaged and relevant may be your greatest ally. Employees should put on their thinking hats and aim to work unanimously with their organisations in being a part of identifying and implementing the solution to the current problems. Focusing on a goal is a good way to keep your mind engaged and find purpose, which in turn prevents you from wallowing in the negatives.


These are a few factors that both individuals and organisations can adopt to help build morale and mental health. This ensures productivity levels and employee motivation stay high during these difficult times. So, have you had a mental health check?


Written by:

Matinat Ajeigbe