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  • Thuvaraka Wijenathan

Promoting Mental Wellness in the Jumia Workplace

Behind the plethora of e-commerce solutions we deliver lies a fast-paced environment that demands a lot from our team members. And considering that we have a relatively young and diverse workforce, many of our employees are in the formative years of their careers, frequently adjusting to new developments.


Unless proper support is provided to employees, stress levels may rise to the extent that they become counterproductive and have a negative impact on overall mental health. Additionally, team members also have to cope with personal burdens that are exacerbated by eventualities like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Unfortunately, there's still plenty of stigma toward seeking mental health-related help, and the symptoms of deteriorating mental health can be hard to recognize. Sometimes, those who need help are stereotyped as team members with mental problems, which deters efforts to create a comforting and uplifting environment. So how do we support employees’ mental wellness?


Enlisting professionals to sensitize and assess employees


During my tenure in Kenya in 2018, we brought in a therapist to meet with employees collectively and enlighten them on the factors that could diminish their mental health and the subsequent adverse effects on their performance at work and other aspects of their lives.


Yoga session in Jumia Egypt

Much to our dismay, this talk was poorly attended, partly because many employees hail from cultural backgrounds where mental health isn’t openly addressed, there’s limited knowledge about it, and those who dwell on it too much are considered weak.


However, once the COVID-19 pandemic came around, many employees experienced an unprecedented level of isolation and other drastic changes involved in remote work, coupled with the constant barrage of sad news about how this disease was affecting people globally.


This trend brought many close to their tipping point, irrespective of whether they were leading teams or supporting the front-line. As more employees became aware of this issue, we worked on facilitating one-on-one conversations between an affected employee and our designated therapist. Thanks to our insurance partner, we quickly expanded this offering so we could cover all employees in the country.


Enriching our mental health remedies


Over time, the conversation expanded to include Human Resources leaders in different countries. This enabled us to streamline policies addressing mental health challenges in our workforce. One of our continent-wide responses is to encourage reliance on employee resource networks.


Healthy lifestyle promotion at Jumia Morocco

This concept is about helping employees with particular similarities, such as parental responsibilities, to come together. They can share knowledge on navigating the associated challenges so no one feels like they are going through it alone.


We've also zoomed in on the social aspect of feeling at home in the workplace. In countries like Nigeria, this effort has spawned the Women in Leadership drive, which promotes upward mobility for women in

e-commerce.


We're now also more deliberate in deploying resources for employee engagement. Thanks to more decentralization in developing solutions to employee mental health challenges, everyone can select a more resonant method.


For instance, in some of our markets, based on cultural sensitivities and the prevalent mental health discourse, there's a high preference for physical activities like sports, obstacle challenges and other stress-relieving and team-bonding activities. Employees are also free to choose clinical solutions like therapy or non-clinical methods like life coaching.


Additional efforts and success indicators


For something as qualitative as mental health, it can be pretty hard to track how well we are doing as a team or how individuals fare. So as we institute preemptive measures, we also try to make them intersect with tracking and analytical efforts.


For example, we have channels equivalent to a suggestion box that employees can use to communicate any desires they feel would improve working conditions. So not only do we learn what we need to do, but we also determine how often specific issues recur and which ones gradually fade away.


Meditation session at Jumia China

We also conduct an annual employee engagement survey to inform policy decisions organization-wide. And as always, we keep track of our employer net promoter score, which has remained high, indicating that our employees continue to view Jumia as a great place to work.


In the future, we plan to deepen our collaboration with organizations like the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to refine our best practices and effectively embed ESG into the Jumia Group's agenda. All-in-all, we are committed to high quality service in support of healthy minds.


Accordingly, we will continue to discover and address any element in our workflows and characteristics of our work environment that could undermine our employees' mental health. By doing so, we can be sure that our employees will keep customers happy while also being satisfied with what they do at Jumia on a daily basis.

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Thuvaraka Wijenathan

Regional Head of Human Resources, Jumia Group


Thuvi has 11 years of experience predominantly in the HR space, across domains such as banking, manufacturing, small and medium enterprises and most recently in e-commerce; in South Asia as well as across Africa. Outside work, she is a mum of 4 and enjoys a good cup of tea and a book in her free time.

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