Your workers may need help with pandemic stress | Let’s talk about it
As we enter the fall, your employees are likely experiencing some degree of stress as a result of the pandemic. Here are some tips on how to support them.
posted September 02, 2020
Limited human interaction, health concerns, financial anxiety, uncertainty about schools and childcare are potential stressors for all your employees. As we enter the fall, your employees are likely experiencing some degree of stress as a result of the pandemic. For some, it may feel tolerable. For others, it could feel similar to trauma.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact the wellbeing of workers, employers should recognize the spectrum of stressors that workers face, says a blogpost by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) Healthy Work Design and Well-Being Program.
“An outbreak can affect mental health and psychosocial problems comparable to experiencing traumatic incidents. People can suffer increased feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, irritation, anger, and denial,” according to NIOSH.
Without care or resources, these issues can lead to substance abuse, chronic health problems, and can worsen existing mental health conditions.
“Work life and personal life are connected, especially during this time of pandemic precautions,” says Liz Hill, Total Worker Health adviser at SAIF. “Organizations can acknowledge the potential for greater stress through providing accessible resources and working with employees to help meet both work and personal demands.”
Employers can help workers build resiliency and cope with stress by taking the following steps:
1. Talk about it—and listen
We've shared the importance of talking about mental health and the pandemic has only exacerbated the need to destigmatize mental health challenges. See some of our tips for bringing it up in the workplace.
Daily check-ins with your team, either one-on-one or in groups, can go a long way, as well as asking thoughtful questions about how they are doing and truly listening to what they have to say.
“While it's important for supervisors to start the conversation on mental health and wellbeing, in some cases it's just as important to simply listen to employees talk about what is difficult for them,” Hill says.
2. Offer helpful resources
We recommend promoting mental health services and resources, including remote access to an Employee Assistance Program.
And we're not just referring to mental health resources.
“One way to be a supportive supervisor is to ask employees how their equipment, tools, and resources are working for them,” says Hill. “Listening for ways to provide training, equipment, and time can help employees feel supported.”
According to NIOSH, when supervisors support workers and encourage them to manage work and nonwork demands, “workers report lower levels of work-family conflict and improvements to their sleep, schedule control, job satisfaction, wellbeing, and physical health.”
3. Reduce workplace stressors
Employers can seek ways to reduce harmful stress caused by work, especially during the pandemic.
Allowing flexible scheduling when possible, encouraging employees to take breaks and paid time off, and showing them they are valuable to the organization's mission are examples of steps to reduce workplace stressors.