The COVID-19 outbreak means that things are not business as usual. The impact is likely being felt at work, with tensions running high for your team members. Now is an important time to be hypersensitive to the needs of your team. Managers of teams will want to take extra steps during these trying times to address stress among their team members. Employees turn to their superiors for assurance in times of uncertainty and how you can respond is pivotal. Here are some ways you can help.
Openly communicate and share information
In the absence of information, people tend to insert their personal assumptions, leading to growing worry. Explain to employees that they can expect regular updates from you and when. And, be sure to communicate those updates even if the situation remains unchanged.
Have a plan and share it
Build employee confidence by letting employees know that you are thinking ahead. Managers should illustrate to employees that the company has planned and that they are well-informed to answer the questions they have. If you do not have an answer, commit to finding one and follow up as soon as it’s known.
Let folks know this is not ‘business as usual’
As a manager, you likely already know that work will be impacted; production will slow down, necessary travel will likely be canceled. Proactively reassure your team that expectations will shift accordingly. This will go a long way in helping people avoid the added pressure of trying to work like usual in this unusual situation.
Acknowledge that you know this is stressful and they may be feeling anxious. Remind your employees of resources (such as an EAP) that are available for team members who are experiencing stress.
Reassure and reinforce the good news
Avoid harping on the negative. Rather, refer to positive reports indicating that most people who become infected with the virus will recover, progress on vaccines, advancements with treatments, etc.
If you think that stress has become unmanageable for a particular employee, address them individually in a way that helps them feel safe. Be understanding and ask what they need to help reduce their stress. Some employees may need mental health days or even medical intervention to cope.
Encourage employees to practice self-care activities during work hours. The same self-care activities used in daily life can help reduce stress in times like these. Invite the team to take breaks from the workday to manage stress and remind the team that relaxation exercises, getting outdoors, physical activity and listening to relaxing music are great ways to take the edge off.
As a manager, your actions can help to establish as comfortable an environment as possible for your team. Steps like those outlined above will go a long way in guiding your team through these unchartered waters.