“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers
Across the nation and around the globe, managers are dealing with employee stress – a COVID-19 fallout. Employees who remain on the job in essential businesses are fearful of contracting the virus and not only dealing with the illness but also spreading it to those at home. Remote employees feel isolated, and if they are suddenly ‘homeschooling’ or taking care of toddlers while trying to meet work demands, the pressure builds. While many states are in the first or second phase of opening, there are many questions and concerns about when and how everything will play out. It all adds up to stress, mentally, emotionally, and in some cases, physically.
Stress not only sparks irritation, denial, anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness, it also decreases motivation and the ability to concentrate. Of course, none of the above are conducive to a well-run business – on or off-premises. Fortunately, there are practical ways to help your employees, and yourself, diffuse the time bombs and lower your stress levels.
Communicate: Talk openly with employees. Keep them posted on changes and give as much advanced notice as possible. Ensure your employees know who to contact when they have questions about benefits, time-off policies, working from home, and available assistance programs. Express your awareness of potential stressors and offer options, when appropriate. Provide resources for help and guidance with mental and emotional health. Set up virtual social events. Build a sense of community and caring from upper management to the most recently hired entry-level worker.
Create a routine: Working remotely does allow more freedom in your work schedule, which can be a plus. On the other hand, encourage employees to set work routines. It provides a sense of stability in an ever-changing world. Share tips on being productive while working remotely.
Mindfulness: Foster mindfulness among your employees. Encourage them to pause and let quiet reign, to create space between the stimulus and their response. Instead of instantly reacting or worrying about the future, focus on self-awareness of thoughts, emotions, and even physical reactions in the present. Slow down, breathe deeply, and count to ten. Reality is that there will always be circumstances and events that unexpectedly interrupt our plans and typical course. Mindfulness is a lifelong coping tool, which cultivates calmness and reduces stress.
Connection: Encourage employees to remain connected with coworkers, friends, extended family, and others in the community through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chat, and social media. Remind them that talking about their feelings and sharing experiences can bring relief. Asking for help and finding socially safe ways to help others builds a sense of “we’re in this together’ and reduces stress levels.
Skip the News: Yes, your employees want to stay informed, but too much is too much. Suggest replacing the news with a comedy. There’s a reason for the adage “laughter is the best medicine.” And while staying connected through social media when we can’t in person is essential, be cautious even there. As Jud Brewer pointed out in an article for Harvard Business Review
“While many people on social media have good intentions and intend to share useful information about Coronavirus with the masses, as they report supply shortages and speculate on how bad things might get, they may be inadvertently doing the opposite. Constantly scrolling through the latest news on your phone or desktop is like walking by people who are sneezing fear. The more you read, the more you are likely to take on their worry and spread it. The problem is that these emotions keep us from being able to think straight, and when overdone, they no longer protect us from dangers. Rather, they become the danger.”
Self-care: It’s easy to turn to food, alcohol, and overuse of caffeine, nicotine, or medicines. Consider a company-wide challenge for better self-care, including:
- Getting outdoors for exercise, biking, walking, etc.
- Sharing recipes for healthy meal ideas.
- Setting personal and interpersonal boundaries.
- Taking time for meditation
- Expressing gratitude and finding joy in the small stuff.
- Skipping the news and watching a comedy.
Fear, anxiety, and stress are not unusual when facing COVID-19, but you can help your employees survive and thrive by keeping the communication lines open and providing tools and tips for coping. Hamilton Connections is standing with you. Since 1986, we have remained committed to the welfare and well-being of all our customers.