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How to Re-engage Your Stressed Workforce During COVD-19

As businesses slowly begin to reopen and stay-at-home orders are lifted, many organizations are ready to have their employees return to work. There are new safety protocols and new guidelines in place, but physical safety is not the only element of bringing employees back to the workplace. It is also important to understand and support your employee’s emotional health to successfully re-engage and re-energize your workforce. This can be a challenging endeavor with many employees feeling heightened stress, anxiety, and depression due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Read on for some tips on how to address your employees’ stress during the covid-19 pandemic and re-engaging your workforce. Supporting employees in all facets of their wellbeing is essential to a successful phased-in return to work. You may also find some helpful information on our Return to Work Resources page.

Managing Employee Uncertainty and Fear

Experiencing heightened stress during a pandemic is a natural reaction. People may feel isolated and lonely due to social distancing and stay at home orders. They may also experience increased fear and anxiety regarding their health and the health of loved ones.  Even as restrictions start to lift, employees are likely still experiencing these heightened feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear. 

If your employees continue to experience and bottle-up these emotions, it can have a serious adverse impact on employees and the workplace, creating barriers that affect collaboration, productivity, and innovation. While it is important to focus on safety guidelines, It is also crucial to understand how to help your employees and address their concerns and emotions in a productive and supportive manner, while also working to minimize the effects that these heightened emotions can have in the workplace.

Tips to Decreasing Employee Stress and Anxiety

Communicate regularly. Communication is needed to develop trust and plays a key role in re-energizing the workforce. It is important to be transparent in your communication, and even when you do not have all the information. Your employees will appreciate receiving updates, even if incomplete.

Empathize and listen. One of the best things you can do right now is listen. Hear workers’ concerns and respond to their questions. Closing the loop on communication is crucial to fostering trust and supporting a positive culture in any organization.

Be flexible. This is a unique situation for workplaces around the world. Understand that your employees may be facing added stress, as well as fear and uncertainty because of the pandemic. Try to relax policies and procedures where possible. Additionally, make it easy for sick and/or exposed employees to stay at home to alleviate job security worries.

Remind Employees of available benefits. It is helpful to remind employees of any benefits and resources that may already be provided by your organization that they can take advantage of. For instance, many EAP (Employee Assistant Programs) have counseling and stress management resources that are available to employees and their families at no cost to the employee. Taking this opportunity to provide information to employees of their available resources is a great way to let you employees know they are supported and encourage them to find ways to manage their anxieties.

Encourage Employee Self-Care. If you do not currently have any wellness programs available for your employees, you can look into creating a self-care plan for your organization to encourage employee wellness. Even if you do not have a formal program for supporting employee self care, there are many other ways to help employees reduce their stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Even something as simple as offering healthy snacks to employees  or an office lunch, can really boost morale and help employees feel valued and appreciated. 

It is important to be supportive of your workforce during this unprecedented time. Employees need to feel safe at work. To feel safe is to feel like your employer has your best interest at heart.

Conducting Stay Interviews

While employees are returning to work, conducting stay interviews will give you the opportunity to re-imagine your stay interview. Stay interviews are an effective tool to starting a conversation with your employees and understanding and addressing their needs and concerns. Stay interviews should focus not just on staying with the organization, but on what the individual employee needs to re-engage with the workforce as they return amongst the COVID-19 pandemic. This gives you the opportunity to speak one-on-one with the employee and gives the organization a platform to promote transparent and direct communication.

Here are a few questions you might consider asking your employees:

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work each day?
  • What do you like most or least about working here?
  • What keeps you working here?
  • If you could change something about your job, what would that be?
  • What would make your job more satisfying?
  • What would you like to learn here? What motivates (or demotivates) you?
  • What can I do to best support you?
  • What can I do more or less as your manager?
  • What might tempt you to leave?

Make sure to close the loop on any concerns or issues that the employee may have expressed during the discussion. Let them know if any desired changes could not be made, and why. Openness and honesty is key, especially as you will not be able to fix every concern or request. Employees may not like the way everything is done, but if you share with them the reasons the organization behaves the way it does, they’ll be more likely to trust you and share their concerns in the future.

Empowering Your Leadership Team

Building trust with your employees is an important tool to keeping your workforce engaged, especially during times of uncertainty, crisis, and panic. Your leadership team has an important role in building this trust with their employees and inspiring and supporting them during this time. It is important that your company leaders understand the importance of building trust with their team.

Employees are looking for guidance and clarity from their managers. It is important that your organization’s leaders ensure that all employees feel well-prepared to do their job. Whether your employees will still be working remotely, or will be coming back to the office, leaders should continue to check in with their employees to ensure they have everything they need to do their job effectively and safely.

Your company’s leadership team is a key communication channel to your workforce. Company leaders are responsible for conveying the organization’s response to COVID-19 for each employee. Only an employee’s direct manager can know and understand their situation, keep them updated, and adjust expectations, in order to inspire and re-energize them.

The New Normal

We know this is a difficult time for your employees, your teams, and your entire organization. Your employees are looking to you as a resource and a leader, and it is important that you keep their emotions and needs in mind. With open and honest communication and a supportive environment, you can carry on with business as usual and have a team that is re-energized and engaged as they return to work. Living through a pandemic is a stressful experience, but if we continue to support and value one another (and follow CDC public safety guidelines of course ) we overcome this obstacle and come out stronger in the end. 

To learn more about how we can help you streamline and strengthen your business, visit our website, or get in touch with us today.

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Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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