Lockdown has created a curious space and suspension from reality that most of us have never experienced before. Some people are enjoying it and finding it frees their minds and bodies. Some people are finding it to unendurably painful. How one feels about it depends on a variety of factors.
For business owners and leaders, it’s been pretty much non-stop or the last two or three months. In addition to all the normal work and worry of running a business, employers started making efforts to protect their teams, which were still working at that point, as the news of the virus came out of China. In mid-March came the shocking and very abrupt economic halt which had to be dealt with rapidly as there was suddenly no work (and no revenue in many cases). Then then came working from home, social distancing, furlough, lockdown, queries about holiday, self-isolating, shielding … and so it has gone on.
As employers are trying to second guess and plan for the future of the business and their teams, a new issue is now arising; the probability of a serious mental health crisis as a result of quarantine, isolation the sudden shift to working from home is starting to emerge.
What can we do to help our team members in these worrying and uncertain times?
Stay in touch
Even if employees are furloughed, arrange to have regular chats with your team members by phone or video call and ask: “How are you doing? Are you ok? How are you managing?” At least if you ask the question your team member can let you know if they need help and you can discuss what can be done to support them.
Listen carefully and empathetically. If appropriate share how you are handling the new normal. Showing that you have vulnerabilities builds trust and can help your team members understand that they are not alone in this.
Stay with it
One way to help people deal with uncertainty is by providing a consistent approach, especially in the way you communicate. Research into communication preferences during lockdown has indicated that employees want at least weekly communication from their company.
When it comes to discussing mental health specifically, a phone or video call directly from one’s manager is the best method of communication. Regular, consistent communication from managers is essential to ensuring people feel supported.
In isolation we miss the informal chats and banter that we took for granted when we were out and about and at work. Employees who are missing informal contact are more likely to report a decline in mental health since the lockdown began. Having virtual coffee or lunch together or hosting virtual happy hours to end the week where people can chat, catch up, share stories, and maintain connection. By checking in regularly you can spot problems early.
Let them know what help is available
Tell your team what mental health resources are available to them. People don’t do well with uncertainty, so just knowing that there are resources available can go a long way to reduce anxiety and stress.
The coronavirus is serious and the spin off health issues equally so. If we take steps to look after our teams proactively, we not only help our people, but our business too.
Keep safe and healthy.
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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.
Copyright © 2020 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.
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