There is no doubt that COVID-19 has intensified emotions around the globe. Whether it’s fear, anxiety, anger, or any other host of feelings, employers know that employees do not check their emotions at the office door. And whether your employees physically work in your office or from a remote location, they still represent your business. If employees are uncertain, on edge, short-tempered, or ill-at-ease, it will be evident to everyone they work with, including your customers. Unconstructive or excessive employee emotions could negatively impact your business.
How can you help employees through this emotional time to keep a healthy, positive, and productive workforce?
Show them you care.
According to a 2018 Binghamton University study, employers should not underestimate the importance of empathy in the workplace, and not just for retention’s sake. Managers who show compassion to subordinates nearly always improve workers’ performance. The employee feels more valued and secure.
Give them resources.
Employees need resources to help deal with the changes the pandemic has brought about. Each employee may have different needs. A great way to economically provide a host of resources under one umbrella is to offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs offer confidential support like short-term counseling, financial or legal assistance, emotional and mental health resources, and much more.
Another popular resource right now is financial programs like FinFit’s Wage Now. This resource offers employees access to earned but unpaid wages. This could alleviate the financial burdens some families may be feeling right now.
Make them feel good about what they’re doing to help others.
Consider creating a company-wide initiative to help those in need within the community. You could organize a fundraiser to allow you to purchase N-95 masks, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, or other safety products for local first responders. This type of project will also give you some promotional leverage when you endorse your fundraiser or its results. What a great way to connect your business marketing plan to community involvement and give your employees something they can feel good about all at the same time.
Keep your finger on the pulse of employee emotions.
Merely asking employees how they (and their families) are doing during this unprecedented time can go a long way in showing you care. Understand how your employees may be struggling and connect with them on a personal level. This helps you discover the types of resources that might serve them best and shows your employees you care about them personally.
What about employee emotions during layoffs or furloughs?
Some employers are feeling the financial effects of the pandemic and may need to consider furloughs or layouts. If you do, know that emotions will run high for those employees too. Here are a few tips on helping employees through the emotional time during furloughs or layoffs.
Communicate clearly and concisely.
If you’re able, provide advance notice that layoffs or furloughs are inevitable. There may be rare instances of voluntary resignation. At the very least, this will give your employees a chance to process the likelihood of a layoff, resulting in a more well-managed reaction when the time comes.
When the time comes for the layoffs or furloughs, don’t beat around the bush or leave questions unanswered. Uncertainty tends to heighten emotions. If you furlough, tell employees how long you anticipate the situation to last or when you plan to re-evaluate. If the layoff is permanent, be clear about that too.
Do it all at once.
If the changes affect more than one employee, perform the furlough or layoffs in a group setting. Employee morale will suffer more if one person is let go each week. Anxiety levels will rise, and productivity will go down. If a group layoff is not possible, consider a communication to all employees once layoffs are complete to relieve anxiety for existing employees.
Again, give them resources.
Employees in a furlough or lay off situation need different resources. For example, they will want to know if and how they can collect unemployment benefits. They’ll also want to know if or when their health and other insurance benefits will end. Be prepared with informational packets as employees may tune out the information if the news is a surprise to them.
Treat them with dignity.
Allow employees to say goodbye to co-workers. If they are particularly emotional, offer a chance to come back and clean their desks later, or suggest you ship their personal effects. How you treat employees (both the ones leaving and the ones staying) will set the tone for morale.
COVID-19 has certainly brought additional emotions into the workplace. How employers address and help employees through those emotions is critical. Make sure your employees are remaining healthy, positive, and productive to have the best impact on your business.