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How to Support Your Employees During Times of Crisis


In the past years, there have been many disruptive and traumatic events that have impacted everyone differently, such as natural disasters, economic downturns, a pandemic, political and social events, war, and terrorist attacks. During these times of crisis, organizational leaders have a unique opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to their people, their values, and the communities they serve. While the needs of every organization will depend on its circumstances, demonstrating compassion, having clear communications, and offering support can foster long-lasting results in camaraderie and employee loyalty. Below are some ways employers can assist their staff in times of need.


Talk About It:

One of the first things employers can do is acknowledge the crisis that has happened or is happening. 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 the leadership’s stance, who to go to, how operations will be impacted, and expectations about the future.


By sending a clear and confident message, employers can reiterate their values and serve as a source of comfort that individuals may need during this critical time. By talking about the crisis, employers acknowledge the need to be compassionate and understanding during a time of tragedy and turmoil. Depending on the degree of impact, leadership is encouraged to converse with their staff members individually to understand and offer a more tailored way to support them.


Be Flexible:

Traumatic events may temporarily result in work disruptions, such as not being able to go into the office, changes in communication styles, or overall work performance. Being delicate and empathic is the key to addressing well-being or performance concerns noticed by an affected team member. It is important for managers to empathize their willingness to be flexible in accommodating employee needs while ensuring that essential work still gets done. Some ways you could accommodate staff is by adjusting working hours, allowing remote work, or providing temporary relief from certain duties. When an employee must continue to head into an office or a facility, employers can offer flexibility, such as reduced hours or a compressed workweek.


Training:

Because there is a correlation between stress and anxiety, it is often useful to bring awareness to the managers on the topic of mental health, its impact, and how to navigate surrounding conversations. Begin by teaching managers how to initiate and conduct difficult conversations with employees and being prepared to offer support, resources, and accommodations. Additionally, managers should be educated on recognizing signs of distress, such as changes in behavior, decreased productivity, absenteeism, or increased emotional sensitivity. Managers should 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.


Finally, managers should also be trained to develop empathy and active listening skills. They should understand the importance of creating a safe, non-judgmental space for employees to share their experiences.


Assess and Provide Resources/Benefits:

Employers should look into redirecting their efforts to foster employee well-being during and after the recovery period of a crisis or disruptive event. Company-offered benefits provide a variety of ways to support an employee’s mental and physical health. Leadership should work collaboratively with other key teams (e.g., HR, Finance, Operations) to assess how to support employees best.

For example:

  • If employees are required to work from home, organizations can look into providing weekly yoga sessions to help break up the monotony of the day and help employees re-center or provide a one-time stipend to help with an at-home office setup.

  • If employees are impacted by a disruptive social event, organizations can provide time off for employees to volunteer for the cause or initiate a company match for all donations.

Stay Connected:

Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, employers should proactively communicate any changes or initiatives timely. Everyone processes and adapts to change differently and at varying velocities; therefore, 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 organizational setbacks, true growth can occur through times of adversity as well. These times challenge us, ignite our creative problem-solving, and can lead to lasting positive change when done so conscientiously.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Kiwi Partners’ HR services for support.

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