2020 has impacted everyone differently and in some ways, permanently altered the way we see the world. Natural disasters, economic downturns, pandemics, and social movements all bring about challenges to society and, therefore, provide the leadership of an organization with an opportunity to recommit to its people.
While the needs of every company will depend on its individual circumstances, demonstrating compassion, having clear communications, and offering support (where and when needed) can foster long-lasting results in the form of camaraderie and employee loyalty. Below are some ways employers can support their staff in times of need:
Talk About It:
One of the first things employers can do is acknowledge the situation. The method of communication should depend on whichever is the most effective based on the company’s culture (e.g. an email vs a company-wide meeting). After a disruptive event, employees need to know what is going on at the office, who to go to, how any pipelines are impacted, and what is expected of them.
Employers have an opportunity to affirm their values and serve as a source of comfort that individuals may need during this critical time. Due to the massive influx of media coverage and information, using a concise, clear and confident tone to send a message can provide a sense of security.
Going a step further, and depending on the degree of impact, leadership is also encouraged to have conversations with their individual staff members in order to understand and potentially offer a more tailored way to support them.
A crisis can often temporarily change the way we are able to work. Disruptions, such as not being able to go into the office, will impact everyone differently given individual circumstances and personal responsibilities.
As part of the initial conversations a manager can have with their employee, it is important to have open conversations with their employees about how and when work can be accomplished – without intruding on their privacy – and offer a wider range of options for flexibility.
In the instance where an employee must continue to head into an office or a facility, employers can also offer flexibility, such as reduced hours, or even a compressed workweek.
Because there is a correlation between stress and anxiety, it is often useful to bring awareness to the managers the topic of mental health, its impact, and how to navigate conversations surrounding such. While it is unlikely that a manager is able to diagnose and prescribe in such area, they can be trained to direct staff to appropriate resources such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or provide the necessary flexibility or time off to support a positive way to cope.
Additionally, technology can be instrumental in ensuring business continuity and the delivery of key information and updates. Times of crisis often warrant technology updates and upgrades, in which, it is prudent to assign individuals responsible for overseeing its adoption as well as serve as a subject matter expect to order to further support staff.
Assess and Provide Resources/Benefits:
Employers should look into redirecting their efforts to foster employee wellbeing during the recovery period. Company-offered benefits provide a variety of ways to support an employee’s mental and physical health. However, during times of prolonged change, such as a pandemic, where everyone is required to work from home, the benefits offered may not carry the same value. Leadership should work collaboratively (HR, Finance, Operations) to assess how to support the employees during transformational periods.
If employees are all required to work from home, companies can look into providing weekly yoga sessions to help break up the monotony of the day and help employees re-center or providing a one-time stipend to help with an at-home office set up.
If employees are impacted by a social movement, companies can provide time off for employees to volunteer for the cause or initiate a company match for all donations.
Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, employers should be proactive in communicating any changes and/or initiatives timely. Additionally, because everyone processes and adapts to change differently and at varying velocities, consistent check-ins with your team’s well-being throughout the weeks following a disaster or disruptive event will be vital in ensuring long lasting health. Doing so will also allow leaders to maintain a pulse on ways the employer can further adapt resources to optimize staff support.
While it is often easy to see disruptive events as an organizational setback, it is through times of adversity when true growth can occur. Times of crisis challenge us, ignite our creative problem solving and when done so conscientiously, can lead to lasting positive change.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your HR Advisor for support.