The outbreak of COVID-19 required health and safety protocols that encouraged colleagues to work remotely has shone the spotlight on the importance of tailored wellness programmes which support colleagues, particularly working mothers, to cope better with the added mental health challenges.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, 40% of South African women feel burnt out, while 51% feel their stress levels are higher than a year ago. The study also points out that 43% of South African women report their mental health as being poor or extremely poor, compared with 49% globally.
“As we become more familiar with the concept of working remotely since the outbreak of COVID-19, working systems have changed in various organisations and this has affected colleagues in many ways,” says Melanie Ann Bauer, Human Resources Director at Servest.
She says COVID-19 had triggered uncertainty and anxiety as colleagues were required to operate optimally in a world of the unknown. Further one cannot downplay the reality that the nationwide lockdown did precipitate feelings of isolation amongst our colleagues affecting them both physically and mentally. In some instances, the lockdown had led to a decrease in collaboration, job performance and productivity.
Women, Bauer points out, have always faced unique challenges in the workplace because of the dual role they play as colleagues and caregivers in their families.
“Organisations need to take the lead in supporting true work-life balance for women in the workplace, considering that work is just a component of life and in reality, women are mothers to children and have families to take care of,” says Bauer.
In a bid to provide support to women and alleviate their difficulties during this challenging time, Bauer says Servest has been working on developing and implementing interventions to ease the day-to-day stresses imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and life pressures among colleagues.
The company’s colleague wellness programme was put in place to equip colleagues with the correct tools to improve how they manage their physical and mental health. It offers support to all colleagues, encompassing those who are battling with social, financial, physical and mental challenges and those who simply want to improve their health, motivation levels and productivity.
“The programme is designed to help colleagues notice the tell-tale signs of stress, giving them the necessary tools to support themselves and one another when they are experiencing a mental health issue, fatigue, or stress,” says Bauer.
“These tools include equipping colleagues to identify when their well-being is challenged, communication skills and enhancing knowledge of how to connect someone with mental well-being issues.
“When a colleague experiences physical, financial, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress, they are likely to be overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands of their job. That is why general wellness is important, and organisations should provide wellness programmes for employers and colleagues to deal with trauma, relationship issues, work-related matters, grief, financial pressure, or those who may simply be feeling discouraged and need to talk to someone,” she adds.
Bauer says employers have the opportunity to take a leading role in preventing and addressing burnout and mental health issues, as they witness first-hand how women balance multiple priorities and often struggle. “By putting additional emphasis on mental health and wellness, employers can help their colleagues see that these struggles are normal and not a source of shame. This can also help create space to provide guidance and support, enabling colleagues to access the help they need,” Bauer concludes.
Servest is one of the largest facilities management companies on the African continent, providing integrated facilities solutions for the internal and external built and marine environment; including solutions such as internal and external design and space planning, hygiene, cleaning, parking, catering, office services and landscaping services across eight African countries across Africa. Servest was established in 1997 and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in 1998. In 2015, Kagiso Tiso Holdings (KTH) acquired 51% of Servest making it the largest black owned facilities management company in Africa. The Group employs 24 000 colleagues across 11 100 sites.