The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of increased stress. Many are worried about the direct impact of the disease and the indirect impact on their employment, finances, etc. In addition, measures of social distancing have left people feeling isolated creating stress and anxiety. As an employer, it is important to find ways to help your employees cope with stress in a healthy way to ensure their well being. Improving workplace resiliance during a time like this is vital!
First, it is important to understand what the different types of effects the pandemic may be having on your employees. The CDC notes that there are several direct effects of stress especially during a serious outbreak such as the COVID-19 pandemic: fear about health (own and that of loved ones), loss of financial stability, loss of support services, changes in sleep or eating patterns, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, and increased using of tobacco/alcohol/substances. Understanding the differences between the different types of effects can help you as an employer to provide support to your employees.
Secondly, it is important to address the different types of work specific factors that may be contributing to stress during this pandemic: concern of being exposed at work, taking care of family needs while working, managing workload, guilt of not contributing enough, uncertainty about employment, learning/using new digital technologies and adapting to a different workplace and schedule. These are some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration while creating strategies that focus on strengthening mental health. A great way to learn what factors are specifically impacting your employees, is through the use of workplace surveys. By surveying your employees, you are able to hone in on the specific issues that your employees may be experiencing at your specific organization to effectively increase workplace resiliance.
Third, it is important to communicate with your employees that you understand their concerns. By creating an open line of communication between you and your employees, you are able to identify their needs and concerns. Once identified, it is important to provide resources that are appropriate to their specific situation and are easily accessible. For needs that go beyond resources, allow employees to identify and offer solutions that may fit their needs better. Most importantly, be flexible! This is a time of uncertainty for us all, by allowing flexibility with schedules and returning to the workplace, you are exhibiting empathy towards your employees’ concerns and providing them with solutions that may decrease their levels of stress. It is also important to create a system within the company that allows for employees to check in on one another. It can be as simple as managers spending time with their direct employees and creating conversation about the importance of mental health to having trained in house therapists that employees can talk to.
Fourth, it is important to increase engagement throughout the organization. A significant amount of office workers who are working remotely feel extremely isolated without their ability to have daily interactions with their coworkers. Bridge this gap by creating systems in place that allow for interaction beyond workplace meetings such as game nights, group fitness, etc. These extracurricular activities that employees can interact with other employees allows for communication outside of the workplace. For new employees that may have joined the company post covid and have never met their coworkers, this is a great way to build relationships and create a support system for those who may not have one at home.
Finally, increase communication within the workplace. The most important factor to take into consideration while creating any strategies or change is how will this affect communication and what are ways to improve communication flow throughout the organization. Employees that feel heard are much more likely to feel safe, respected and stable in their workplace. Creating clear communication allows your employees to navigate through these tough times as smoothly as possible.
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