Understandably, most companies focus on staying afloat during a crisis. However, equal attention also needs to be paid towards employees’ mental health and productivity. This article explains more.
With the current uncertainness looming around job security, the traumatic toll of the pandemic, and the sudden shift to working from home, workplace stress is at an all-time high. Therefore, how can managers support their employees as they manage staff stress during a crisis and likewise build a caring culture?
Demonstrate supportive listening
During a crisis, you might have a higher number of employees speak about the challenges they are facing and how they affect their health and work. Rather than turn a deaf ear, more managers need to practice supportive listening.
You might not have the chance to solve all the issues at once; instead, you can show genuine understanding and ensure that your employees feel heard. It is bound to increase employee loyalty.
Also, you can build their trust by choosing to open up about your struggles as a manager if you have any. Reciprocation serves as a powerful tool in creating a connection with your employee. It makes them feel like their health and well-being matters to you.
When people realise they are not alone in this, it gets easier to rally together and build a sustainable support system that benefits the company. For companies that motivate their employees, there is a common thread of supportive listening to identify employee challenges and address them.
Additionally, listening to an employee’s challenges and proffering solutions will go a long way toward establishing trust, loyalty, and retention. Even during regular times, staff with employers that listen and help them manage crises are more likely to stay longer than those who don’t receive such help.
Train and prepare
For companies with the resources, you can make time available to your workers to learn new skills. Even for companies on a tight budget, you can share motivating YouTube videos, webinars or encourage them to sign up for free online stress management courses.
The knowledge they get can help them better prepare for change with more skills or experience. It also helps them adapt with ease as they transition into new roles or look for work in other areas or organisations.
Providing resources to train your staff and prepare them to handle a crisis is an indicator of what companies treat their employees well. Your gestures will forever impact them, and it will also be beneficial to your organisation because you will have more proactive staff.
Another way how managers can support their employees is by checking in on them consistently. Speaking to them about their mental well being during a crisis is not a one-off conversation. And it is because the feeling of uncertainty doesn’t just go away.
Since the start of the current pandemic, over 90% of employees said they would like to have weekly communication with their company, and 29% said they would prefer daily communication.
Additionally, when employees are working remotely, their seal to work tends to dwindle, so you will need to know how to encourage your team to have more passion for work. A phone or video call is usually better than an email or text because the former can be more personal.
Although it does not single handedly rest on a company to fix an uncertain economy, employers can at least try to make work more stable and predictable by keeping their employees in the know and warning them of imminent change.
Communicate available resources
Companies that motivate their employees can also provide mental health resources to all staff of the company. Some employees may never need to make use of these resources. However, they feel better when they know that the resources are there.
As we noted earlier, uncertainty often comes up when employees face any crisis. That is why knowing that resources are available for them goes a long way to ease anxiety and stress.
Some of the resources employees may need help with are childcare, elder care, therapy, healthcare, transportation, and other crisis-related services. As an employer, you can assign a team or an individual to manage employee crisis resources.
The team or individual should regularly put together and share a list of community resources where people can get assistance and information since it is hard to get reliable and accurate information during a crisis. Thus providing such information means your workers have one less thing to worry about and they’ll certainly appreciate you for it.
You can also establish procedures, create a budget, and a timeline to meet employee needs. These include purchasing tools that enable remote work, helping employees who are facing housing challenges to find short term solutions, and offering extra support to those who have special needs as the situation requires.
Show empathy and leadership
There is a heightened level of stress an employee may experience over health, job, and financial security during a crisis. As a leader in an organisation, you need to show that you care about each staff. Also, they will need mental health guidance and crisis management tips that can help boost their spirits.
It’s wrong to assume that all your employees have adapted well after the first few weeks of a crisis and a new regular set-in. Some employees are the quiet type and will likely not share their grievances and stress.
So if they know you are a leader who empathises easily, they are more likely to come to you for support. Or for those who find it hard to share their struggles gave them the chance to do so anonymously.
Furthermore, you can provide them with access to wellness channels such as telehealth providers and online stress-management classes. When companies treat their employees well, it denotes a sign of good leadership and also tells well of their core values.
However, some leaders plugged in 24/7, working during a crisis. Sometimes this means that employees can end up with additional work hours that can lead to work-related stress. As an empathic leader, you should make an effort to let your staff log off from time to time and relax with family or take time for themselves.
Such actions can better foster a stress-free environment in uncertain times. We are also aware that employers face the daunting task of having to lay off some staff or announce a pay cut. It would help if you did it nicely and with empathy.
Provide more work flexibility
Before the current global pandemic, the number of people who worked from home regularly was far less than those who work form an office space. Now with more people working from home, it affects each employee differently depending on their responsibilities and living situations.
For instance, those with younger kids’ need to balance looking after them (since schools have been closed) and trying to keep up with work tasks. That’s why it is crucial for employers’ to be more flexible to match specific employee needs.
First, it is important not to intrude on staff privacy. The time frame for staff availability might get blurred when working remotely. You can also speak to your employees and map out a flexible schedule and hours, considering their peculiar challenges.
Creating work flexibility can significantly reduce your employees’ stress levels by helping them to juggle work and personal life at a calm pace.
It signals that the company respects the staff’s personal lives as much as you value their professional contributions. For employees in areas where they are allowed to commute still to work during this pandemic, companies can again offer more flexibility.
You can cut their working hours, create compressed workweek, or even a leave of absence. Furthermore, if your organisation’s workload doubles during a crisis and your staff begin to feel the burn of the workload, you can outsource some of the work.
For instance, if you run an eCommerce store (like BigCommerce) and have staff who is in charge of continually uploading new content on the website, social media, and blog, the workload might be much considering the spike in eCommerce demand and product searches during this pandemic.
When employees are stressed, it means their productivity and work quality also suffers. Also, in a global crisis such as the one we are experiencing, a lot of work slows down as activities come to a grinding halt.
When this happens, you might want to consider reviewing KPIs and expectations wherever possible. For tasks that are not urgent, you can afford to put them on the back burner and relax deadlines. Do not stress over minor oversights or mistakes that will not affect the overall project.
If your policies require a stringent process when staff wants to apply for paid leave or financial aid, you can try to make them more easily accessible.
Create social workspaces
A famous saying goes, “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Your staff needs to be able to unwind, especially when managing stress. Creating an informal workplace both virtually and in an office space gives employees a sense of belonging and builds team spirit.
Managers can facilitate these interactions remotely by creating online groups or channels for virtual happy hours, yoga or knitting classes, etc. Discussion groups focused on well-being are also important. Encouraging this kind of peer support and speaking out on shared experiences is helpful.
When faced with uncertainty and stress, your employees’ health and mental well-being can be significantly affected. Now is a great time to put out measures that show your staff you care and value their well being above all.
Such actions tell well of your organisation’s core values and help to build a healthy workforce.