Guest article by Theodoulos M. Makriyiannis
Vice Chairman of Cyprus Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Cyprus)
Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cyta

We are undoubtedly going through very difficult times. It is a period of uncertainty, fear, insecurity, instability, reluctance, awkwardness, with questions about the present and the future. This has a multilevel effect on the personal, family and work life of almost all people.

During the past few weeks, we have witnessed the efforts of several Organisations and companies, especially those in the service sector, introducing various schemes and telecommuting tools in order to endure their operations as far as possible, while others have suspended their operations until further notice. These conditions test the strengths of Organisations and businesses, the financial structures of the state, but above all they test the strengths of workers and their families.

In an article published on the 12th of March 2020 on “Coronavirus – with opportunity comes responsibility”, Mr. David Marsh, Business Continuity Manager at Gamma Telecommunications PLC in the UK, states that “My concern is for the smaller organisations without the skill resilience and I recall a BCI Video entitled the “time is now” and it is very true of what is happening now”. As quoted in the Video, “In an uncertain world, companies with Business Continuity Plans have an advantage. When the clock is ticking, they are ahead of the game. If there ever was a time where resilience is needed, time is now”.

As Mr. Marsh explains, focusing on good health and well-being can have a huge positive impact on employees, business culture and day-to-day performance.

Along with increasing support for employees to manage non-occupational diseases, it is clear that wellbeing strategies that address work-related causes of health, such as stress, should be a key priority for Organisations when reviewing business continuity plans.

In his article “How to Prevent Loneliness in a Time of Social Distancing”, published on the 12th of March 2020 at the website of the acclaimed Scientific American magazine, Mr. Kasley Killam, states that “with increasing numbers of people isolated because of quarantine and social distancing, COVID-19 is not the only public health threat we should be worried about—loneliness is one as well”.

As noted in the article, while scientists are rushing to understand how the coronavirus works, researchers have long understood the toll that social isolation and loneliness take on the body. People who do not feel connected to others are more likely to catch a cold, experience depression, develop heart disease, have lower cognitive function and live a shorter life. In fact, the long-term harm caused by loneliness is similar to smoking or obesity.

In January 2020, a nationwide survey in the US found that 79% of Gen Zers (Generation Z – those born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s), 71% of Millennials (born between 1981-1996) and 50% of baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) feel lonely. As the article states, even without the isolating from Coronavirus, most of the population already suffers from poor social health. The obvious cause of this problem is technology and social media.

However, recent research by the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that the problem is not the time spent on social media and technology, but how it is used and that everyone can benefit from developing digital habits that support meaningful human connections, especially now that it may be our only option until the pandemic is over. As stated in Mr. Killam’s article, “now is the perfect time to practice using technology in socially healthy ways”, giving several examples.

Therefore, it is commonly understood that in this era, psychosocial risks and particularly depression, is one of the major problems faced by Organisations and businesses.

As reported on the World Health Organization website, depression is a common illness worldwide, with more than 264 million people being affected, while close to 800.000 people die due to suicide every year. In addition, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

Based on all the above, and in the light of the actions taken to implement the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (in particular target 3.4 to promote, inter alia, mental health and well-being), all Organisations and businesses within their Corporate Social Responsibility, take concrete and effective measures to protect employees and their families.

As already mentioned, focus on good health and well-being can have a huge positive impact on employees, business culture and everyday performance, with consequent creation of appropriate conditions for ensuring business continuity.

Moreover, offering good practices for psychological support for employees and their families can play an important role during the Coronavirus outbreak. This can be achieved by designing and implementing specific employee-centred strategies, taking into consideration the particularities someone must deal with, as a result of the consequences of quarantine i.e. a mother or a father, being responsible for the education of their children and / or the care of the elderly.

The Cyprus Psychological Association (CYPSA) can play an imperative role in this effort. Some good practices are the preparation of specific guidelines for organisations/businesses by CYPSA on how to inform their personnel, as well as identify, address and protect employees and their families in need of assistance.

In addition, CYPSA and its Members, showing their own Social Responsibility, could provide online psychological support with reduced fees to any organisation or business interested in covering the cost of their staff and family members for as long as the pandemic lasts.

Summarizing all the above, it is clear that the resilience of Organisations and businesses is strongly intertwined with the strategies they choose to implement to manage their business continuity. Strategies, which have a very important role to play (the most important being their mental health) in health and wellness issues for both the staff as well as their families. There are many ways to manage the crisis. But it is up to each organization and business to make the right choices by focusing on their people.

In a crisis like the one we are going through today, most of the organisations and businesses will suffer significant losses. But the crisis will sooner or later pass and there will be winners and losers. And the winners will not be the ones who will temporarily choose to maximize or safeguard their profits. Winners will be those who choose to support their staff as much as they can, even if it means a significant loss of revenue or their reserves. Winners will also be those Organisations and businesses that activate their Corporate Social Responsibility mechanisms and choose the path of solidarity and selfless offer to the state, our fellow human being and the society in general.

The choices are there, and everyone is invited to make their own.
Theodoulos M. Makriyiannis

CSR Cyprus was established in November 2016 in the form of a non-profit association (number 4583) and is the national Operational Network of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Cyprus. The main objective of the Network is to promote, develop and implement CSR and promote it both to the business world and to the social environment with an ultimate goal of achieving a balanced profitability and sustainable development

Guest article by Theodoulos M. Makriyiannis
Vice Chairman of Cyprus Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR Cyprus)
Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cyta

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

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