The coronavirus pandemic has seen sent the world in lockdown with over 2.6 billion people or roughly one-third of the global population, in some kind of quarantine. This has resulted in not only economic costs which are being documented, but also an emotional toll that has yet to be fully quantified.

Effects of long-term quarantine

Globally governments have imposed some form of restrictions that affect human movement – including full mandatory quarantines to recommendations like avoiding social gatherings, public or mass transport, and workplaces. People are cooped up in homes and are feeling the pressures of social isolation coupled with the anxieties of an unstable economic environment and health concerns as the pandemic shows no signs of abating. Some blue-collar workers and some small businesses have seen their work shut down completely, raising anxiety about how to pay rent, bills, or even put food on the table. Those termed as essential workers have to face the dangers of infection as they head to work. Additionally, for many executives who are working from home full-time, the boundaries between work time and family time are blurring, leading to friction and further discontent.

Earlier this year, medical journal The Lancet published a review of several studies on the psychological impact of quarantine. The studies showed that people in quarantine were likely to develop a range of symptoms of stress including anger, irritability, insomnia, depression, and high anxiety.

Employee well-being in the corporate sector

The recent Health and Well-Being Survey from Fidelity Investments conducted on how employers and employees are faring during the pandemic shows that 95% of large corporate employers worldwide are now emphasizing emotional and mental health programs in their corporate employee well-being programs. Employers are gearing toward helping employees make the shift to working from home with programs that help with work-life balance like childcare support, paid leave for new parents, and caregiver support. Other examples of mental and emotional health programs that corporates are now offering include resiliency programs, stress management, and meditation courses.

Steps to reduce the emotional toll

The World Economic Forum’s COVID Action Platform has proposed an action plan for governments and NGOs in the mental health field can do to help alleviate the crisis.

  • Educate people about the psychological impact of the pandemic and help them understand that such psychological reactions to trauma are normal and should not be stigmatized.
  • Ensure that people have access to some sort of self-help interventions.
  • Inform people via a specific website to address the psychological and social impact of quarantine.

For individuals, mental health experts suggest that there are some ways to manage anxiety.

  • Establish a routine. This is important when you are working from home and boundaries are blurred. Maintaining a schedule is essential to help manage physical and mental well-being.
  • Exercise when you can. If you cannot leave the house for fresh air, it is important to practice some exercise activities at home, even if it is for 20 minutes
  • Stay connected with friends and family with technology. If you are unable to meet your dear ones due to social distancing, do a video call or phone call to keep in touch.