We are in unchartered waters so it’s understandable to feel like the coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing us to our knees. Already, it has affected everyone – not just through the lack of toilet paper and panic buying, but through the overwhelming amount of information and news constantly bombarding us.
As employers, it’s important to look after the physical and mental health of your employees. In times of crisis, this needs even more attention as the wellbeing of each employee could be at stake.
You may notice some employees are feeling calm and collected, others may feel a little bit of fear, while others still may be highly anxious. As an employer, you are probably experiencing similar feelings to some of your staff.
There’s no judgement on what is right or wrong. We are all individuals and we all need support. But how do you support your staff if they are feeling anxious and overwhelmed at this time?
Here are 2 tips to help you.
Tip 1: Create a supportive environment
The first action you can take is to create an environment in which you recognise and accept each employee’s response to the crisis, without judgement. You’ll find that employees who are spiralling out of control will respond better if they feel supported and encouraged rather than criticised.
Encourage a supportive environment at work where employees look out for one another. Remember, you need to lead by example.
Tip 2: Encourage self-awareness
Teach employees the characteristic behaviours that come with anxiety so they can be self-aware of their actions and identify when their anxiety is spiking. Encourage them to come forward if it is. Registered Australian Psychologist, Amberley Meredith says you should ask yourself:
● Am I feeling a little overwhelmed?
● Am I constantly checking for updates?
● Am I thinking so much about the coronavirus that I’m not able to focus on work?
● Am I hearing objective facts or am I focusing on ‘what ifs’ and fears?
● Am I avoiding the situation?
● Am I struggling to interact with others?
● Am I feeling disproportionately angry, frustrated or annoyed with other people or situations?
Not everyone will come forward, so recognising these characteristics in others is also important.
How to help with anxiety
Meredith offers a six-step process to help others with anxiety, which can also be used to structure organisational messaging:
1. Recognise and validate staff feelings, even if you can’t understand them.
2. Show understanding. We all have different fears, experiences and perspectives.
3. Show compassion.
4. Offer support. Let your employees know your organisation wants to support them and let them know what supports are available. We can assist you with specialist supports that are available for individuals and businesses. Also let them know you’ll check in to see how they’re doing.
5. Offer other suggestions. Encourage self-awareness, recommend useful online resources or encourage employees to speak to family or an independent professional about how they’re feeling.
6. Identify support people within your organisation who staff can come to if they are not comfortable approaching the person who is anxious. The support person could be you, a capable team leader or manager.
Anxiety can spread, so discouraging and catching anxiety-inducing conversations between staff members can help reduce the overall anxiety in your workplace.
Why take action?
Neglecting employee health and wellbeing can have a negative effect on your team, their morale and their behaviour, which in turn can instigate Fair Work claims. If you need assistance to implement processes to help support your staff during this time, contact us.