No organization is immune to a crisis. Natural disasters, economic uncertainty, fires, active shooter or terrorist attacks, and even former disgruntled employees are all potential stress-inducing factors.  When a sudden global health pandemic occurs, employees are faced with an unprecedented level of stress.

Certain risks such as some natural disasters or fires, for example, can be planned or anticipated.  (Remember the fire or tornado drills?) These drills aren’t just designed to help practice what to do, but to help minimize the level of stress should an event occur.

When a crisis can’t be predicted and risk factors aren’t able to be mitigated is when employees feel the most helpless and vulnerable.

During stressful times, the responsibility to ease employees’ fears falls squarely on the shoulders of leadership. While a certain level of fear is inevitable during a crisis leadership should take action to demonstrate they are looking out for the interests of their employees. They should also emphasize their willingness to address any fears employees may have, whether privately or in a group setting.

The following tactics will help mitigate employees’ stress during an unforeseen crisis such as a global pandemic and beyond.

Be Welcoming and Supportive 

Managers should let employees know that the door is always open and they will help in any way they can. When employees express their fears, leadership should do their best to resolve them. If this is not possible, providing resources that can is sufficient.

Employees should never feel mocked or degraded and management should never outright dismiss their concerns. While leadership should remain professional in all interactions, the lines of communication should always be left open.

Some common concerns may include, but are not limited to:

  • Job stability and longevity
  • Money problems (e.g. reduced earning potential, not eligible for overtime pay, promotions/raises that don’t happen, etc.)
  • Health and Safety (e.g. caring for self or loved ones, security/safety protocols, etc.)

Take Employees’ Concerns Seriously 

There is a time to let employees do the talking and expressing their concerns and fears is one of them. Managers should listen carefully as they talk. Furthermore, during a stressful time, it is imperative to offer flexibility to employees. For example, if an employee who is clearly struggling requests a full day off, but only has enough paid time off for a half day, their manager may consider letting them take a full day and making up the time at a later date.

Letting employees play an active role in formulating or executing solutions is also a great idea. Being involved gives employees a sense of ownership and control that people crave during a crisis.

Set Clear Objectives and Goals 

Employees should not be left wondering why they are taking the risk of going to work. This is particularly important for those who work in an office rather than working remotely.

Leadership should make it clear to employees that their contributions are highly valued. Equally important is setting well-defined goals employees can strive for during this time. Management should stress the rewards of reaching these goals versus the consequences of failing to achieve them. This way, employees will view the objectives in a positive light and feel motivated to achieve them.

Remain Calm and Carry on 

This expression has become emblazoned on many coffee cups and t-shirts, and hung in a frame in many homes, in recent years. It has never been more applicable than it is now. Management must remain calm at all times.

Again, it goes back to exhibiting a sense of leadership. When managers remain calm, employees are likely to follow their lead. Why? Feeling like leadership has the situation under control is reassuring for employees.

Make Employees Feel Involved 

Leadership should install a sense of ownership in employees whenever possible. This includes inviting them to collaborate on crisis plans, implementing their ideas and acknowledging the role they play in helping to keep the business afloat during the economic downturn.

There is no denying that a crisis such as a global pandemic has created stress that few people have known before. However, by using these tactics, leadership will help employees thrive during the global crisis.

Discover more inspiring ideas to boost morale and engage your people. Contact Gavel International for details. 

Jim Bozzelli