Around the world, employers are increasingly worried about the emotional well being issues presented by escalating COVID-19 pandemic. The emotional/mental health implications that come combined with stress, fear, and uncertainty are quite devastating if not checked with proper measures. It is the prerogative of the leaders to improve the emotional well being stamina of the workforce as the organization as a whole navigates the course of this extraordinary challenge.
The current crisis has hit organizations very differently depending on the sectors they belong to, yet the single common factor among all the sectors is the infinite levels of stress that have compounded thanks to this new situation.
Front line workers are working harder against the backdrop of potential risk. Beyond keeping their workforce physically protected, the employers should also manage staff exhaustion and the innate stress that comes from the pressure to perform during the crisis.
Many in the team will have delusional feelings of guilt if work prevents them from being able to care for the family, while others suffer because they might be away from the ones that matter to them. There is a bigger pressure of performing according to the targets set by the manager and when that is not done, the emotional well being of the person shatters.
Whatever the reason is, supporting the well being requires a holistic approach that addresses mental health and engagement with psycho-social consideration in this new working environment.
A survey undertaken by Qualtrics revealed some hard facts which are to be taken note of on an immediate basis.
- Those who have worked from home for more than 2 weeks are 50% more likely to say that their mental health has declined due to sadness and fatigue
- 44.4% of those who are working from home say their mental health has declined.
- Even at the different levels of the organization, emotional well-being is a concern where 44.0% of individual contributors report decreased mental health, 40.5% of C-level employees report decreased mental health and 40.1% of managers report decreased mental health
What should the leaders focus on to mitigate the impact of such a demanding situation? We will discuss that and appease the emergency in our hands
1.Protecting emotional and physical health
Beyond the physical protection measures, the workforce should also know where to find information and guidance for emotional health. It is important to maintain open channels for communication to hear out how they are feeling and most importantly listen and respond. There should be a central contact point for the entire workforce and hubs to respond promptly to any concerns.
A regular weekend session on techniques to stay calm, present, and focus will be helpful in reinforcing the importance to reduce stress and mindfulness for mental clarity.
Have transparent communications and involve everyone in important organization matters. Never forget to educate the entire workforce that if they notice any behavior change in their colleagues or team, they should report the matter so that the struggle could be counter-attacked.
REMEMBER EMPATHY AND CONCERN IS A PRACTICAL SOLUTION TO DEAL WITH WORKFORCE STRUGGLES
2.Keep your staff connected and supported
A research that was done in Hong Kong after the 2003 SARS outbreak revealed that enhanced social connect did a great job at offsetting the negative emotional health impacts of the pandemic.
For many people, colleagues become good friends, and having them besides is an important buffer to their feelings of social isolation and dis-connectivity. Encourage your workforce to stay connected with regular virtual video meetings.
Leaders of the organizations should also make themselves available to their workforce to talk about their fears, and reassure them about work and personal issues.
3.Recognize behavior change
When you notice a discernible change in behavior, it could mean that something is up with the individual. Team leads, managers, and even other colleagues should not ignore these signs and ask questions, interrogate them with what the probable causes are.
“We agree that the person might have personal problems back home, but asking him/her would mean that there is an outlet for flowing his emotions out”
The energy to remain motivated in the crisis is very difficult. But if the leaders of the organization take up the responsibility to create a roadmap, it will surely refurbish new energy in the team and everyone will collate their efforts towards a common goal. This is also a great time to remind everyone what the organization stands for and what its values are. When you present a clarification of plans to the workforce you can put out the plans to align your approach with the overall organizational goals.
“The value proposition lies in continuous communication, even when you do not know the answer. If you say nothing, people worry and might fill the communication gaps with negative speculation”
5.Check-in with your team whenever possible
If you check-in with your team members, it doesn’t mean your job is done, for checking, again and again, has become a necessity in these times. Make a decision about when these routine check-ins have to take place which could be once every three days or even weekly. The routine follow-ups should continue not just in the quarantine period when the workers work remotely but also when conditions have eased off a bit.
“It is harmful to have pretensions that all is fine even when things are not. The first step to the bigger cause is to recognize that there is a problem”
After a week of hard work, it is completely worth it that the company organizes a regular weekly activity not just to let the steam out but also to know your people better. Not just the HR but also the leaders if possible should make it a point to participate in these activities that are meant to build interaction and get to know each other better. Some of the activities that you can go for:
Share your childhood pic – gives you a chance to praise your colleague’s pictures so that interaction can be accelerated.
Show your talent – When you are giving them a platform to show their talent, apart from the excitement of it all, the workforce will be engaged in preparing for it.
Crisis personality – When you give your people the chance to talk about any situation in their life when they had averted a crisis or faced it with much aplomb and peace, you are giving them the motivation to sail through this crisis also with an equal measure of grace and self-assurance.
“When the workforce has something to look forward to, they are engaged, excited and most importantly motivated”
7.Do not invade their personal space
Working at home does not mean that they are disposable whenever the company requires it. There has to be some differentiation between their timing remembering that they have a family too. They could also want to allot time to pursue activities which they were not able to when they visited the office full-time. Be empathetic and understand respecting personal space and priorities. This way they will value the organization’s work more than ever.
Emerge winners out of the crisis
What we have suggested is not easy to follow, but the options are ideal to overcome the hazards of the situation. Leaders who are trying to do everything in the book to help their team stay emotionally fit, also have a lot on their plate. So, they should also be communicative about their innermost fears and feelings for no battles that can be won without the support and assistance of a team that shares the same goals.