‘Many people are suffering’: Business leaders must prioritize workers’ mental health in Covid lockdown, CEO says

FAN Editor

Rising coronavirus infection rates, and the accompanying wave of lockdowns across Europe, should prompt managers to spend more time considering their employees’ mental health, according to the CEO of staffing group Adecco

“Especially with … the second wave of lockdowns coming in, we need more emotionally intelligent leaders, because we see that many people are suffering,” Alain Dehaze told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday.

Countries including the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and France are in lockdown or have extended restrictions, with some expected to last beyond the end of the month. Lockdowns were first implemented last year when the coronavirus pandemic hit in early 2020, and have been reinstated as virus infection rates have risen during fall and winter.

Workers have reported worsening mental health during the pandemic, according to an Adecco-commissioned survey of 8,000 office-based staff in eight countries. 

“We have seen in our survey that 28% of employees … say their mental health got worse during the pandemic, and that only 1 in 10 managers exceeded employees’ expectations in supporting them,” Dehaze said. “This soft skill will be extremely important to make sure that in this new world, managers and leaders are taking care of their people in the right way.”

Adecco expects permanent, white-collar jobs to decline this year, such as payroll workers, with more of a focus on temporary roles.

“Employers have the challenge to have the right talent at the right time, … but unfortunately for some of them, [the pandemic] means they will have to lay off people, and then it will be very important that government, but also employers and individuals, are investing in reskilling and upskilling themselves to remain competitive.”

Employees want to spend around half of their working time in the office and half at home (once restrictions are lifted), according to Adecco’s survey. “Human interactions are still valued. And these figures of 50-50 really transcends geography, generation, parental status. So, it’s really a kind of new universal ideal,” Dehaze said.

“Hybrid work is here to stay. … It creates [a] more inclusive workplace, especially for people with disabilities, or working parents.”

Adecco’s revenue was down 28% in the second quarter of 2020 and fell 15% in its third quarter. Dehaze said he expects its revenue to continue to improve as lockdowns become less restrictive. “Governments have learned from this first lockdown not to close everything and keep the economy going and protect the labor employment by doing ‘intelligent’ lockdown(s).”

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