In this episode of Daxue Talks David Ammerschlaeger, a psychologist and the head of psychology at ChingHo clinic, talks about how to assess the mental wellbeing of employees during COVID-19 disruption.
Full transcript below:
Welcome to Daxue Talks, a show powered by Daxue Consulting, a China-based strategic market research company founded in 2010.
My name is David Ammerschlaeger, I am a psychologist and I am the head of psychology at ChingHo clinic. I am also an executive coach and a member of the shanghai international mental health association and the British Psychological Society and I am very happy to be here tonight.
How can employers monitor the psychological state of their employees during the crisis situations?
I think the company’s leader’s hesitation around flexible work arrangement is often driven by the fear that performance will suffer if employees aren’t closely monitored and the question we might actually ask here – is it really the company’s job to monitor their employees’ state of mind. Because there is for me a difference between monitoring which can be perceived as the employee as a means of control and offer support. So, to answer your question I would say monitoring the psychological state is difficult when the employee is hiding and keeping their issues from their employers and that is part also of their private life. I mean everybody has the right to keep stuff for themselves. Now, I think the first step to do is to raise awareness of the importance of mental balance and the risk associated with distance working. So, one of the issues is that managers need to be involved in this monitoring if you want – whenever managers or even co-workers see that there might be an issue, there should be a process inside of the company to offer support. So, a huge step here is to be able to talk openly about these issues without feeling any stigma and you need to be comfortable enough telling your boss that you have problems. I mean, people are okay calling in sick and to say that they have flu, so why should it be so difficult and creating a feeling of weakness if you say that you’re having issues in managing your mood or your motivation or your psychological balance in general. So, I noticed actually that there is for many people something self-accusing or some – it’s like saying that they are not able to manage, that they are weak; it’s a sort of confession or something like that which sounds basically bad and which triggers a lot of negative stigmas. And that is not the case when they’re talking about physical health issues. When somebody calls in for being sick, then people say – oh poor dear, take care of yourself. But when people say – I can’t take this anymore, I am getting crazy or I’m burning out or I want to kill myself because I’m so depressed, everybody will scream and say – oh my god! This person has a problem and so on. So why is that in the end? Right. And we cannot say that this is because people are more responsible for their mental health than they are for their physical health. If somebody calls in because they have cancer because they have a very bad lifestyle because maybe they are smoking or drinking too much or something like that, that’s also their responsibility. So, our mental weaknesses are actually what makes us human and I would say telling that to the company is also showing that you’re not just a robot basically, otherwise you can also use some artificial intelligence in order to have something that is always working perfectly and even then there might be some bugs.
This actually, what we feel is human weakness is actually what gives us the power to create, to innovate and to connect with each other and this is what makes the genius and I would say the real added value of company basically. That’s the people of the company. And as long as there is this barrier of not being able to share these vulnerabilities without fear, I think there’s no real possibility to actively monitor this.
Now, practically companies have recourse to surveys, we can have support lines and, of course, there are also some indicators that actually can help managers to see if there’s a problem. So, for example, the American center for disease control and prevention has set out a few clues that help co-workers and managers in noticing whenever something is wrong. So, for example, if you notice that one of your colleagues is withdrawing or isolating himself. Not answering the calls for example in this set of working from home, or the personality of the person changes. If that person has difficulties focusing or remembering details, and this is something that did not happen before, or if there is for example difficulties organizing thoughts and tasks and if there are some cognitive challenges, if the person is slow in understanding, if there are big issues focusing on the work in hand or something like that or you feel that this person is never really present during a meeting and he’s always drifting away or something like that. That might be clues that actually help managers and co-workers seeing whenever there’s a problem.
But actually, often when co-workers or the company is being made aware of these issues, it’s already too late, because that means that this person is already in often a clinical level of depression or burnout or something like that.
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