Job insecurity wreaks psychological havoc on workers; those in their fifties are the worst sufferers
A 27 year old was released, returned home to prepare for UPSC to give him a good shot at the exam he has always wanted to take. A 32-year-old woman tells herself she will now have more time with her toddler. A 40-year-old single man decides to pull out his Royal Enfield and embarks on a trip across the country.
Another single mother, in her late 30s, moves closer to her parents and takes a night shift job that pays her less. A 49-year-old man with kids in college breaks down knowing his prospects for another job are bleak. His expenses are high. So is his BP.
While layoffs have been ongoing since the first Covid-19 wave in 2020, creating immense fear and uncertainty among employees, this year’s mass layoffs have been just as unexpected and far more devastating than previous ones. This was caused by a number of triggers, including a volatile international environment brought on by war, a lack of financing, restructuring and modernization by companies that are also trying to cut costs to stay afloat, and an overall weak economy. And this has impacted the mental health and well-being of a large number of people worldwide!
A survey by The7thFold found that 36 percent of Indian employees suffer from mental health problems and 50 percent fear an uncertain future due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, according to Assocham, almost 43 percent of private sector employees in India suffer from mental health problems at work. Also, up to 57 million people in India – 18 percent of the world’s population – are affected by depression, calling for an urgent reassessment of the mental health crisis.
The first step in managing the crisis is to understand the process and the immediate impact of the trauma on a diverse group of employees.
When the news comes, it’s usually a flood. The organization is in a collective shock. The retained and the fired all feel a sense of betrayal and anger. Especially in smaller organizations and start-ups, the narrative of being a community aligned with values and purposes, and the informal connections further reinforces this sense of shock and betrayal.
Beyond the initial shock of being fired, a sense of resilience and the “bustle quotient” slowly sets in, depending on age, gender, liabilities and financial status.
The younger layoffs usually seem to be recovering and more hopeful after the initial shock. They focus on further education, career changes, etc. Older people try to look for more self-reliant or counseling-related opportunities, hoping to use their experience. However, they feel the financial strain, often have to seek support from parents, move back to their hometown, and often cause shame or discomfort. The disruption of life, relationships, causes stress and insecurity. For older professionals with more dependents, feeling hopeful may not be as easy. And for those who already suffer from anxiety or other mental health issues, it can make their condition worse.
People in their 30s, often with low savings and growing liabilities, are hit hardest. You have to pay EMIs, school fees, etc. The impact of job loss affects the whole family, the children, and causes tremendous feelings of fear, insecurity, guilt, despair and frustration.
People in their late 40s or 50s are distressed when they are laid off. It affects their immediate financial status, but also their retirement savings and children’s higher education. Given the economic downturn and hiring trends, they have almost lost hope of re-employment. It can affect their well-being, health, sleep and mood. People who are held back continue to work in a state of fear and uncertainty.
Recent unicorns and well-funded startups have downsized, leading to distrust in the organization and withdrawal. Also, for some of the employees who are retained, try to find solace in the increased work flow that helps sublimate the uncertainty and anxiety into greater productivity. Some feel drained and their productivity diminishes over time.
Organizations can support both groups of people, dismissed and retained people, by — providing the necessary professional help and support; communicate the duration for which the assistance will be available, particularly for those who have been made redundant; Have authentic conversations, moderated by experts, so fired people can express their anger and process the change. Support them with referrals, compensation packages, extended insurance and other possible benefits; executives, management to show themselves and take their decisions; show genuine empathy; clear calendars, approachable and willing to listen; Assess the impact of the change and the risk that individuals who have been retained may have.
(The author is Psychologist and Clinical Director, Manah Wellness)