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Stress, doubt, and anxiety can be just as contagious as COVID-19 itself. It is important for organizations to help employees with their physical as well as emotional wellbeing during this time of crisis, as the present and future ramifications of COVID-19 generate a mixture of emotions among employees. As, there’s plenty of workplace stress due to COVID-19, from adapting to new working arrangements, having the kids home, employees getting sick, and much more, organizations should realize that employees are riding emotional rollercoasters and can support them by suggesting ways to reduce anxiety and alleviate larger concerns during times of crisis.
The world indeed feels crazy right now, but here are a few ways HR professionals can help their employees manage workplace stress during COVID-19.
The number one thing that HR professionals can do to help their employees manage stress during COVID-19 is to communicate. Communicate so they know what their options are and that they do have options. Making sure employees know who to contact when they have questions about benefits, time-off policies, working from home, or other assistance programs organizations offer will be key in reducing overall workplace anxiety and COVID-19-related job stress.
Open up the lines of communication. In practical terms, the company's COVID-19 stress management plan might need to include some sort of information campaign using email, newsletters, and internal web page, or company announcements dedicated to answering COVID-related questions.
Maintain a steady line of communication to keep the workforce informed, aligned, and engaged. Also, prepare by having a templated communication or FAQ document that can be amended for different situations.
To specifically address the issue of grief and emotional well-being, the organization’s communications about COVID-19 stress management need to include resources on employee self-care. Remind the employees to take advantage of their health care benefits, particularly with regard to mental health. If an organization has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make sure everyone knows how to access it. EAPs are free for employees and anonymous, alleviating the financial stress and social stigma that can be associated with seeking mental health counseling.
Normally, working from home offers many benefits, from increased productivity to better work-life balance. But this situation isn’t normal. Many businesses have had to transition practically overnight to a fully remote workforce.
Additionally, many employees are working from home with spouses, partners, roommates, or kids in the same space and are just not able to separate their personal lives from their work, increasing the likelihood of burnout. To combat this, organizations need to issue clear directives about respecting when employees are on or off the clock.
Along with giving the employees tips for adjusting to remote work, educating managers on best practices for dealing with remote employees plays an important role, so they’re better able to mentor and support their teams. More generally, to keep remote employees engaged and emotionally healthy, communicate standards for staying in touch during the workday, retaining or rebuilding team culture, and keeping long-term objectives rather than hourly output in mind.
Read more on how to help your employees find focus while working from home.
What if some employees perform jobs that put them in contact with the public? Healthcare workers are the most vulnerable and most essential during this time, facing unimaginable risks and stress at the front lines of the pandemic. These workers have to worry about getting infected by someone at work, protecting their family from illness when they come home, working with the public at a time of high panic and stress, and more.
Therefore, workplace safety has to be HR's top priority. In the case of hospitals, that responsibility may fall to administrative staff who oversee safety as part of their broader role. But outside of medical facilities, safety is often the responsibility of the HR professionals.
That means ensuring employees wash their hands and have access to basic hygiene supplies, like hand sanitiser or soap and warm water. HRs should enforce regular disinfection of high-touch areas and ensure managers are communicating proper behaviour to every team member.
One of the best ways to offer consistent encouragement and motivation for remote team members is to set up a virtual employee engagement plan.
Download the ekincare virtual employee engagement ebook for HRs.
Though much of the stress is compounded by feeling helpless in the face of this pandemic, health, and government guidelines shift and change with the developing crisis, and as employers try to adapt, employees can often end up feeling caught in the middle. HR professionals continued communication and support will be invaluable to help their employees find their way through this pandemic. If they feel like they have support for their job stress, they’ll feel better equipped to face the rest of the crisis.