On June 17th (Thursday), SWISSCAM organized a special panel on “Mental Health in Companies”. The issue was already gaining visibility within corporations, but with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic it was necessary to quickly put into practice projects to help employees.
In this event, we had the participation of the President of SWISSCAM, H. Philip Schneider, and the mediation of the Coordinator of the Human Resources Committee, Maria Lúcia Menezes Gadotti. In addition, we had the pleasure of hearing from three representatives of SWISSCAM member companies: Dr. Daniela Laranja Gomes Rodrigues, Neurologist and Researcher at Hospital Alemão Oswaldo Cruz, Katia Regina, responsible for the Wellness and Recognition area at Nestlé and Carlos Roberto Toledo, Executive Director of Human Resources at Zurich in Brazil.
The “burnout” – A Medical View
Dr. Daniela Rodrigues brought a medical view on the issue by sharing cases of patients who were in a state of burnout (physical and psychological exhaustion caused by overwork), but did not even know it. “Patients usually come to my office complaining of physical pain, such as a headache, and they think that taking some medicine will solve the problem. However, the headache is just a sign that mental health is not doing well. There are other indicators, such as lower back pain, anxiety, depression, phobias, etc.”
She emphasized the responsibility of leaders towards their subordinates. “Usually, employees don’t want to talk about their problems, for fear of appearing weak in front of their boss and co-workers. Therefore, it is important that leaders talk to employees and pay attention to the increase in the number of absences and leaves within the team.”
Daniela also gave some tips to make us feel better and avoid the onset of mental illness. “In order not to get sick, the best medicine is prevention. It is essential to set aside time for leisure time, invest energy in something we enjoy, exercise and eat a healthy diet. The physical space of work environment can also help. Researches indicates that clean, organized places, with no accumulation of garbage and with plants favor the well-being of employees.”
Nestlé’s Program: “Connected Emotions”
Katia Regina started her speech with a sentence that sums up well why companies should be concerned about the mental health of their employees: “Satisfied people work for something better and are more engaged with the organization.” It is important to emphasize that Nestlé is a food company (services considered essential), so it could not stop during the pandemic. Unlike other companies, most of its employees had to work in person. Thus, Nestlé saw an even greater need to support employees in such a difficult time. “We already had projects focused on health, however, we decided to strengthen this area and developed a project during the pandemic called “Connected Emotions.” According to Kátia, a series of online sessions were promoted, given by psychologists and therapists, to help employees manage their feelings in times of stress and high pressure.
Another interesting idea was the creation of exclusive sessions for leaders. “A lot is said about the responsibility of leaders, but they are also people with problems, feelings and need special help. That’s why we promote exclusive sessions to listen and advise high-level professionals.”
In addition to the “Connected Emotions” project, Nestlé provided a 0800 telephone number to talk to qualified professionals. “With this individual follow-up and the online sessions, we saw a reduction in the number of leaves. It’s been very beneficial for the company to offer this kind of help, not only to our employees, but also to their families and retirees.”
Zurich uses technology to help employees
Due to the pandemic, all Zurich employees started to work from home, so the company felt the need to establish some rules so that employees would not feel tired. “At Zurich, we have an engagement group dedicated to conduct research, bring ideas and discuss new actions,” explained Carlos Roberto Toledo. He listed a series of simple but effective actions that were implemented. “We block the schedule from 12:00 to 14:00 so that there are no meetings and employees can have lunch with peace of mind. We also advised employees to use the first 5 minutes of the meeting to find out how their colleagues are doing, before they actually start talking about work matters. In addition, there is always a break between meetings, to take a break and recharge.”
Zurich also used technological resources, such as the use of apps. The “Balance Z” app encourages exercise, meditation, nutritional guidance and psychological counseling.
“We did Lives on mental health, with Monja Coen, Psychiatrist Daniel Barros and Philosopher Luiz Felipe Pondé. In addition to activities to distract employees, such as a lecture on wine with Galvão Bueno and a virtual Festa Junina.”, added Carlos Roberto Toledo.
He closed his participation with a reflection on the difference between companies that have purposes and those that live their purposes. “Customers and employees feel when the company genuinely wants to help.”
What will come after COVID-19?
We are still in the middle of the crisis and we have no way of knowing exactly what will happen next. However, our guests showed that simple actions by organizations can considerably improve the lives of employees, retirees and family members. Everything indicates that these health programs and the use of technology must remain.