May 6, 2020Continuous Improvement, HCM Technology
Supporting Worker Well-Being in the Face of Disruption and Corporate Change
Amid the havoc of COVID-19, increased stress and anxiety features as an invisible chronic symptom. People lucky enough to still be working may be concerned about job stability, adjusting to working from home or feeling stressed about still going into the workplace amidst coronavirus contagion. The demands of being substitute educators for kids who are normally in childcare or school can be a huge source of stress and anxiety, as well as looking after elderly relatives and of course, worrying about co-workers or loved ones who are sick with COVID-19. Add to all this that people are more isolated and less in connection with the support network of co-workers and extended family than ever before and it’s easy to understand why feelings of well-being could drop.
Communication in the Era of COVID
No one knows or has control over how long this pandemic will last, but what can be controlled is communication to workers about actions your organization is taking to safeguard their jobs and the company’s survival. Have you applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan? Let them know. Tell them when the money comes through and communicate anything else leadership is doing to care for the organization and its workers. Provide information about the disease, including facts about staying as safe as possible, and what to do if they think they might be ill. Our HR Learning & Development expert, Kathy Aubuchon, says that creating an information hub for Wise employee-owners has been helpful in alleviating anxiety. “At Wise, our focus is to make the flood of information more consumable for our employees. We are trying to help by giving our employees a portal with access to the tools they need when they need them. By giving them one place to go with reliable answers, we hope to relieve some of the anxiety felt as they are bombarded with the “info overload.”
Broadcast Wellness Information
If your company has an employee assistance program (EAP), proactively roll out the information as a reminder of this valuable resource. Rather than waiting for workers to reach out with issues, let everyone know about whatever mental health and well-being services are covered for employees. Leadership can underscore the importance of well-being by encouraging direct reports to take time for wellness-related activities. If employees hear from the top that it’s a priority and see examples of their managers emphasizing the importance of mental and physical health, the culture of the organization can be shifted toward wellness.
When COVID-Related Layoffs Happen
Despite everyone’s best efforts to cut in other areas and examine all possible ways to avoid it, some companies will make the tough decision to lay off workers. An article by Rebecca Knight in the Harvard Business Review suggests that information is key to easing the pain and shock of a layoff. “People are likely going to have a lot of questions about the timing, their benefits, and severance. These conversations may need to happen fast, but you’ll have a better chance of easing your own and the employee’s anxiety if you can provide them with answers about what happens next. Reach out to HR, your legal department, and any other senior leaders who might be able to help you prepare answers to questions such as “When will I get my last paycheck?” and “What happens to my 401K?”
Some organizations are utilizing tools developed specifically to track employee stress and resilience, such as SkillNet’s workforce wellness measurement tool. Akin to a performance assessment, tools like this can follow how anxiety levels and attitudes are tracking as time goes on. Since no one knows exactly how long the pandemic will last, keeping tabs on overall mental health is a good idea.
Some things you can do now to help promote workforce connectivity and well-being:
- Set up virtual team building activities or after-hours ‘happy hours’, trivia nights or Bingo-type games and encourage all employees to attend – Team Building Ideas, Pub Trivia Games
- Utilize internal company communication tools to keep employees connected and informed. Reach out to people individually so they know they matter.
- Promote the concept of doing things to sustain well-being and the benefits of taking steps to build and maintain healthy routines – we are all in different circumstances, what does this look like for each individual?
- Provide positive yet factual information from leadership and communicate that there is an understanding about what employees may be concerned about: include good news and encourage an open-door policy for questions.
What Can Wise Consulting Offer to Help with These Issues and Concerns at this Time?
If you want to understand how Wise is focusing on internal communications and keeping remote employees engaged, reach out directly to our Wise consultants to set up a call.
Check out our video below featuring Wise Consulting Founder & CEO, Jennifer Wise, and President & COO, Steve Grem, discussing company communication during the pandemic:
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