The silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19’s arrival to South Africa.

When COVID-19 hit South African shores at the beginning of March 2020, we had no idea what to expect. Entrepreneurs had taken the leap to start their own businesses, consultants had taken on new clients, small-medium enterprises were on accelerated growth trajectories, and traditional businesses were seeking ways to defibrillate sections of South Africa’s stagnant economy.

We are now in the 10th month of the global COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight. Most of Europe has gone into lockdown again, friends have been retrenched, favourite restaurants have closed down, and over 3 million formally employed South Africans have lost their jobs.

It’s hard to remain positive. To remain motivated. As South Africans our stress threshold was already reaching its limit before COVID-19 reared its nasty head. However, there is a silver lining to this all. COVID, lockdown, confinement, whatever you refer to it as, has highlighted mental health. Its fragility, and its importance.

The effect of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing.

A Report on Mental Health and Wellbeing in Europe’, commissioned by AXA (European Insurance Giant), provides insights into how people have coped during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what the effects of the pandemic, and associated lockdown measures, have been on individuals.

The survey uncovered that the pandemic has taken a profound toll on the mental health and general well-being of individuals (no surprises there). These factors were found to have worsened our chances of coping well with the pandemic:

  • Having intimate relationships affected
  • Having a poor state of mind prior to Covid-19
  • Living in a bigger household
  • Being an extrovert
  • Having increased job stress
  • Having to take more responsibility for others
  • Having your financial security destabilised
  • Losing your job because of Covid-19
  • Having a history of mental ill-health
  • Being a woman

According to the findings, “during the pandemic, the number of people saying they had poor mental health tripled.” Furthermore, those with pre-existing conditions suffered the most, with 42% of respondents citing that they felt they were losing control of their lives because of the crisis.

Two of the main reasons people have given for poor mental health conditions were: an increase in work stress, and a deterioration of their financial situations.

The economic repercussions of the pandemic.

And there’s an economic price to pay for all of this. According to SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group), one in five South African do/will suffer from mental health issues at some stage of their lives. Although the economic repercussions of this are not exactly known in South Africa, mental-health illness accounts for half of all long-term leave in Europe. The cost of mental health related issues is estimated at a staggering €600 billion a year in the EU. If we assume that even a fraction of that amount impacts the South African economy, we need to sit up and take notice of how much COVID has affected us mentally.

How to improve mental health and general wellbeing.

There is no quick-fix to mental-health issues. COVID-19 has given us the silver lining of highlighting just how important mental health is to us, to our colleagues, to our employees, and to the overall state of our businesses. Here are some short points for you to consider, and to open the conversation about mental-health:

  1. Don’t treat mental health as a taboo topic – talk, talk, and talk some more.
  2. Be as flexible as possible – about working environments, about hours, about responsibilities, and about leave. Many American and European companies have made massive strides in this area and are reaping the benefits. Happier employees are more productive.
  3. Pay attention and be ready to help – this doesn’t need to only apply to employees. It could apply to your friends, your colleagues, and even your superiors.
  4. Plan hook-ups – yes it is a pain to sit with a mask on. Yes, it is a pain to wash your hands every two minutes. But we can promise you, real-life interaction, and collaboration is invaluable.
  5. Design/find a mentally healthy work space –  research has shown productivity, engagement, and overall wellness increase when people feel comfortable in workspaces with natural lighting, plants, and other positive features.

Perch Flexible Offices.

Perch allows for the flexibility needed during this time, in a beautifully-lit, gorgeously furnished, safe, and comfortable environment. Run by a small intimate team, you’ll always be greeted with fresh, friendly smiles, and will be sure to meet kindred spirits who are always keen for collaboration. Try your first day free on us!