A few months before we heard about coronavirus, an eye-opening 2019 study found that 60% of workers believed mental health affected their productivity at work.1 Now COVID-19—accompanied by isolation, an unclear future, personal concerns, and unique workplace challenges—has sent employee stress and anxiety to a whole new level.
What can you do today?
As a team leader or manager, there are several relatively straightforward ways you can help keep your employees healthier and more productive during this time of uncertainty, including:
- Be honest and transparent: Communicate with your team often, clearly, and transparently. Discuss what’s happening right now and what the possibilities are for the future—even the uncomfortable possibilities. Research shows that being transparent about worst-case scenarios builds trust.2 (It also stops gossip and rumors—another significant source of stress.)
- Collaborate with employees: Give employees a say in decisions that affect them—from defining work-at-home rules to major changes to the organizational structure. Not only does collaboration gives employees a sense of control and value; it often leads to more innovative ideas and outcomes.
- Make work manageable: Clarify project priorities, so everyone knows exactly what’s critical and what can wait. Break up large projects into a series of small steps. Small victories help employees feel productive and useful—which leads to more productivity and less stress.
- Be flexible and realistic: Many normal rules and benchmarks don’t apply now. Set deadlines, workload, and performance expectations that take the current situation into account. Clarify the “the new normal” with all the members of your team. If possible, have one-on-one meetings with each employee so you can understand each person’s unique situation.
- Encourage employees to use their benefits: Many organizations offer benefits that help employees deal with stress—like mental health helplines, fitness programming, or information on stress-reduction techniques. Be sure your employees know how to access and use these benefits. (Also, be sure everyone is up to date on current sick leave and related policies.)
What can you do in the future?
Although coronavirus is an especially stressful event, workplace stress is not an anomaly. Studies show that in a normal year, more than 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions ($16.8 billion in employee productivity).3
When you (literally or figuratively) catch your breath after the coronavirus epidemic, consider working with people through your organization—from leadership to your employees—to prioritize initiatives that provide training and support to employees around mental health and workplace stress.
At Salo, we match consultants in finance, accounting, and HR with the organizations that need their expertise. We’re dedicated to helping our client organizations and consultants work effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us know how we can help your organization.
1. Mind Share Partners; Mental Health at Work (2019 report)
2. Psychology Today; Managing Employee Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus
3. Harvard Business Review. Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health