The global pandemic continues to test employees and their families as the Kingdom and the world at large continue to take small steps toward a “new normal.”
And it’s through small steps that Aramcons across the company have found ways to maintain their mental well-being and positive attitude as COVID-19 continues to impact virtually all aspects of life.
caring for colleagues in remote areas
While isolation may be a new phenomenon for employees in urban centers like Dhahran, Dammam, and Ras Tanura, it’s a normal fact of life for employees based in remote facilities such as Khurais, Tanajib, Shaybah, or Pump Station 10.
However, many of the normal activities such as sports leagues, gyms, libraries, social activities, game nights, and others have been suspended due to COVID-19. In Khurais, a shutdown of social gathering spaces occurred just as the company had raised production to reach a maximum sustained capacity of more than 12 million barrels per day to meet global demand. The intense pressure of the work, combined with the requirement for isolation forced Khurais management to take extra steps to make sure employees had the emotional support they needed.
But confronted with a challenge, Aramco responded in ways that maintained business continuity while protecting the lives of our people and the safety of our communities.
Management checked in on employees regularly and made extra efforts to give employees — who weren’t able to travel during the lockdown periods — adequate breaks and days off to recover from long shifts. And remote areas got creative, too. In Shaybah, a trivia contest that employees could take part in from their rooms helped keep employees engaged.
families find variety of ways to adjust
Families have had to develop new strategies to maintain their mental health, as well.
For Rashmi Dalal, a life coach and yoga teacher in Dhahran, that meant traveling in-Kingdom to sites from al-Hasa to Riyadh instead of traveling abroad. But Dalal has also relied on some tried-and-true strategies such as maintaining close communication with her best friends and following some of the advice she offers to others, such as establishing and maintaining routines while allowing for spontaneity, exercising regularly, setting aside “me time” every day, and pursuing some short-term goals.
“This has taught me to take things more slowly, one day at a time,” she said. “And not to take anything for granted, as our circumstance can change in a blink of an eye.
“Perhaps the most important lesson has been to let go of the things we don’t have control over and live every day to the fullest,” Dalal added.
exercise, baking, and keeping it touch
At home, one of the critical ways Aramcons keep mentally fit is through keeping physical fit.
“For me, it is always exercise,” says Andrea Radi. “When when we were on 24 hour lockdown, I walked around my house and worked out in the garage. When I move, I think better and feel better.
Adrienne Belaire agreed, but noted that combining exercise and family time enhanced the value of activity exponentially. “When it all started, we had a workout group with teams that helped hold each other accountable and competed for points. And during that time, my family did workouts together. It was so helpful during the lockdown,” she said.
But not everything was purely health-linked. Belaire was also part of a group of people who took to baking to preserve a sense of normalcy.
“There’s been a sourdough baking revolution on camp,” said Zainab Imran. “It’s been so therapeutic — failures and all!”
Of course, one of the best way individuals have maintained mental health over the trying period has been through the use of electronic media such as Skype, Facebook messenger, and a variety of apps that provide face-to-face communications with people who are thousands of miles away.
Linda Jo Schick was in the U.S. when borders closed in March, and for months was worried about her husband who remained in the Kingdom working. Talking on FaceTime twice daily, along with several family calls together on Zoom, helped her entire family get through a strong feeling of separation.
“The conversations were just as lively as if I were there,” Schick said. Eventually, she made it back to the Kingdom, something that she said she was “so grateful that Aramco put a COVID-19 team together to bring us all back.”
Of course, if all these things aren’t quite your cup of tea, you might want to follow Kasondra Blacker’s example.
“We got a puppy,” said Blacker. “‘Nuff said!”
Aramcon: ‘Don’t be afraid to get help’
For Naif Alajlany, the most important defense against depression and anxiety is seeking medical attention if you need it.
Alajlany, who works in Shaybah as a machinist technician, suffered for years before getting treatment that helped him shake a deep, dark, and debilitating depression.
Things got so difficult for him at one point in 2015, he had decided to resign from Aramco, hoping that forgoing his job would help bring a new lease on life and he planned to leave the company by 2018. But after seeking professional help (with Aramco’s support via health insurance), by 2017, he was able to largely recover from the depression that had gripped him for years.
“Before I visited the psychiatric clinics, I thought I’d find very few suffering the same as me,” said Alajlany. “What I found is that there are many people who need help in fighting anxiety and depression.”
So energized by his fight, he now embraces the opportunity to help others who are suffering in their individual battles with depression, encouraging friends and colleagues who need help to follow his example.
He was appointed an ambassador for goodwill and peace by the World Federation of United Nations Friends, which has helped him spread his message.
“Many ask me about the name of the doctor who treated me, and I tell them the doctor isn’t the reason I recovered,” Alajlany said. “True recovery begins from within you, and depends on your desire to get better and love for life. “But you have to be willing to get help when you need it,” he said.