Stress negatively impacts an employee’s productivity, health and wellness and results in increased error rates, turnover, absenteeism and workplace injuries. We have all had to change our approach to work due to COVID-19 and the year 2020 has thus been full of change, feelings of uncertainty and fear, leading to increased stress in and outside of the workplace. With our new normal of working from home, attending back-to-back zoom meetings and juggling parenting responsibilities entangled with work commitments, personal and professional lives are increasingly intertwined.
Your employees need increased management support more than ever. Everyone is navigating new territory. Many employees have never worked from home and are accustomed to a different level of support and interaction. They may feel they are existing in a vacuum. Managers can positively influence the well-being of their team members by communicating, advocating work-life balance and utilizing other tactics. Even the most dedicated employees need down time.
Communication is the key to alleviating the stress of uncertainty and feelings of isolation. An employee accustomed to walking down the hall to speak with their boss can quickly become disillusioned by the barriers to communication that working from home present. Managers must set hours of availability and go the extra mile by scheduling regular check-in meetings.
Additional proactive strategies:
Set clear expectations and remain open to feedback regarding workload issues. Brainstorm ideas for the team to provide aid when one employee feels overloaded.
Seek out stress management webinars or classes and encourage employees to participate. Or better yet, proactively hire an expert to deliver a virtual seminar to your team.
Encourage stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise, hobbies and time away from work with friends and family. (Socially distanced with masks if not household members).
For employees who must work from the office, ask your employer to provide an area where employees can have quiet time. Consider turning a small office into a room with dimming lights, soothing music and a water feature and allow employees to sign up for blocks of time.
Encourage telecommuting employees to take regular breaks and stick to scheduled work start and end times. Do not expect employees to be answering emails at odd hours that are reserved for family or down time and if they are, impress upon employees the importance of taking time away from their home office.
Be mindful of scheduling meetings only when truly necessary and don’t overdo it with video conferencing. Oftentimes a brief phone call is all that is needed for effective communication.
If you have tried everything and an employee is still having a difficult time adjusting, ask your human resources contact for information on the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and provide it to the employee. These programs customarily offer a number of free counseling sessions specifically aimed at helping employees manage stress.
Managers can make a huge impact simply by being there for their employees and engaging in the above strategies to connect with team members and provide validation of feelings, assistance and encouragement. While it is your job as a manager to make an impact on employees, make certain that your take care of yourself during this challenging time as well.