Along with the physical implications of the disease, COVID-19 has also had a significant impact on the mental health of an employee. The pandemic has separated people from their workspaces and moved them away from familiar daily routines. With remote-working, the sense of inclusion is often missing. The HR department serves as a valuable link between the employees and the management and is in a unique position to bridge the divide.
Supporting your employees through this crisis can be done through various ways- expressing empathy, communicating frequently and openly with employees, understanding their pain points, offering mental and emotional support and resources, issuing paid time-off, ensuring that employees remain healthy and productive even during this unprecedented crisis.
According to Accenture research, 63 percent of consumers globally prefer to purchase from companies with values that reflect their own.
Challenging times like these provide organizations with an opportunity to bring their values to life and instill a sense of positivity and trust amongst the employees. Even when faced with major financial challenges which result in layoffs and pay cuts, do it with empathy and compassion that won’t leave your team feeling wary. When employees feel cared for, they perform much better at their jobs. A positive employee experience can go a long way in reassuring the employees during a crisis period.
What strategies should your business follow to support employees during the pandemic?
- Make health and employee wellness a focal point
Providing support to your employees does not have to be done extravagantly. The pandemic, since its very onset, has tested our well-being. Everyone is grappling with constant fear and anxiety and dealing with multiple tasks at the same time. This constant pressure is harming productivity and can affect the bottom line in the long run. Effective and personalized support also starts with healthy communication. Communicate with your employees frequently to understand what’s ailing them and provide tangible support. These times call for walking an extra mile for the employees who are already dealing with mixed emotions. Organize motivational sessions with mental health professionals who can offer the necessary advice, organize wellness programs, paid time-off, etc. Even when all this is passed, your employees will remember how you made them feel during the worst crisis period.
- Train managers to handle the change
Everyone is personally affected by COVID- whether it is an ailing relative or family, whether it’s your struggle to manage isolation, or figuring out this massive change of remote working along with managing other domestic responsibilities. This pandemic has hit us all equally hard- where none of us were prepared for such severe implications of this magnitude. Managers stand in a better position to support staff and guide them through this transition with the least effect on business continuity plans. Invest in a few online trainings to sensitize your senior management about the gravity of the situation and provide them with the necessary skillsets to navigate their teams through such challenging times. Managers, especially, have to find a way to bring in empathy and compassion in their daily dealings along with managing the challenges of remote working. It can be tricky to balance all ends but by equipping them with the necessary tools and providing adequate support, they can bring in positive changes.
- Show appreciation
While all of us continue to grapple with the new normal and struggle to strike the right balance, appreciation by the organization for the efforts by the employee can serve as a perfect motivation factor. Recognizing, praising, and otherwise showing appreciation for a person’s work, dedication, effort, and contributions go a long way in reinforcing an individual’s faith. When an employee feels that their efforts are appreciated by the senior leadership, it boosts their confidence, motivating them to maintain their level of efficiency. Tangible steps taken by the leaders, such as talking about an employee’s accomplishments during team meetings, mentioning their work in conversations where managers were present, and giving them opportunities to work more closely with senior leadership instill confidence. This affirmative behavior reinforces confidence especially when contact with coworkers is limited and there is a constant fear of job security and uncertainty over the future.
- Create opportunities to stay connected
While the physical distance between people has increased due to obvious reasons, ensure that employees stay connected virtually. They are bound to miss team bonding activities, daily conversations, and other social interactions in the workplace. Organize daily check-ins, group exercise classes, sessions with the senior leadership, organize virtual activities that make employees feel engaged. The constant isolation can be difficult for anyone therefore ensure that employees stay in touch with each other. Seek out new ways to expand and demonstrate inclusivity and the feeling of “we are in this together” by incorporating new practices. Schedule activities that foster team bonding and builds a positive environment. Designating time and space for team bonding demonstrates your seriousness towards employee well-being, creates a happy workspace and boosts the productivity of workers.
- Provide a healthy work-life balance
Working from home has its unique challenges where individuals are constantly struggling to successfully manage their work and domestic responsibilities. This can be especially overwhelming when there is a huge pressure at work that extends beyond designated work hours and disrupts other vital activities. Enabling employees to prioritize their well-being will help them keep burnout at bay. Many people are grappling with grief, so it’s important to support a work-life balance that creates time for self-care. It is also essential to provide the necessary resources to employees to make remote working easier. Organizations must take proactive steps during a crisis to ensure complete employee well-being and make this a priority. Provide employees with the flexibility to work at their own pace and don’t make them feel guilty for taking the necessary breaks.
The pandemic has been challenging and destabilizing for everyone and has impacted each of us uniquely. For the HR managers, it has presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put culture first and prioritize employee health and overall well-being. Demonstrate values of empathy and compassion to your employees and understand how each might be functioning during these unprecedented times. Walk the extra mile, provide the necessary support to create a positive and productive work environment.
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