As the current natural disasters and now the Coronavirus unfold, people may feel anxious and worried about the aftermath and consequences of these events. Often these events tend to result in additional feelings of insecurity and vulnerability, and your employees may deal with this through a range of reactions.
Many will be concerned about the effect directly on themselves and their family, others may become distracted, anxious, and less productive in their day-to-day functioning. These feelings are all perfectly normal and understandable.
Managers will find that some employees are more affected than others. Employees’ reactions also depend on their current life stressors and their association with previous natural disasters or traumatic events.
It is natural that during this time, and for some ensuing period, productivity of your staff will diminish. At the same time, as crisis tends to bring people together, your staff may develop closer connections and improved relationships with one another.
Employees are resilient; however, some will exhibit more reactions and may need additional support in order to cope. Typically, some people experiencing stress do not openly communicate their anxieties. Often, the only observable signs may be behaviours such as:
- Increased absenteeism
- Difficulty concentrating, attending to tasks, easily distracted
- Uncharacteristic decline or change in performance
- Unusual irritation and agitation
- Unusually high expectations directed at managers to answer questions and ensure employee safety
How to support employees
These events can be related to a loss of control and influence over what is happening. Therefore, a primary consideration for managers is to provide a supportive environment in which control, confidence and competence can be regained. It is helpful to:
- Acknowledge employees’ concerns in a respectful and non-intrusive manner.
- Feel free to acknowledge some of your own concerns and reactions to the crisis.
- Recognise and acknowledge, in a non-judgmental way, that employees may have different emotions, attitudes and opinions related to this situation.
- Urge employees to reach out to people they feel close to.
- Inform staff experiencing anxiety that these feelings may vary from day to day and may be different than the feelings and thoughts of those around them.
- Prompt employees to focus their attention on matters over which they have influence.
- Demonstrate that you are as concerned about your employees as you are about work objectives.
- Address critical changes in performance in a timely, clear manner while conveying understanding of anxiety and stress for employees.
- Provide information regarding other support available to them such as an Employee Assistance Plan if you have one.
Key considerations for managers
- Be visible and manage employee anxiety and fear by walking around, listening, asking questions and being seen as delivering solutions.
- Communicate frequently. Should this crisis directly affect your organisation, conduct regular and daily communication. This should ideally occur at the same time each day and contain practical and accurate information for employees.
- If your workplace has been directly affected by the disaster, ensure that all key roles and responsibilities to effectively manage the crisis are clearly understood and communicated.
- Provide employees with clear information regarding how to access internal and external resources, if required.
- Reaching out and supporting employees at a time when you may also be affected by the events can be stressful, so it is essential that you take good care of yourself and seek consultation and/or support, if needed.
Need a little more support with HR but not sure where to start? We also offer a free HR Health Check we review all your HR documents, processes, contracts to ensure they meet HR Best Practice and most importantly legally compliant