Each day, new announcements are made and changes to our daily lives and work are put into place. After the amazing solidarity the nation displayed as bushfires ravaged the country, we are now being called upon to work together to help those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
So, in a time of uncertainty, it is imperative that we recognise fear and anxiety and help each other find a way to focus on being our best selves.
Social distancing and isolation can be detrimental to maintaining the connections that many organisations depend upon for productivity. With more and more employees working from home, the need to fast-track the uptake of technology is just one challenge being faced.
New technology invariably requires new ways of communicating and connecting and is a skill which does need to be developed; therefore, supporting the different needs of employees is something most workplaces are well aware of, but these unprecedented times pose new challenges.
Many people will be incredibly grateful to be able to continue working at this time, but there is still the potential for negative feelings to affect our ability to work together. Managers will have the challenging task of maintaining business continuity, but also to navigating employee relationships and creating an environment that encourages unity and teamwork.
Here, AccessEAP offers advice on how employers can encourage supportive behaviour between employees and create an inclusive working environment particularly in times of crisis and working remotely.
Lead by example
In any stressful circumstance, management should model behavioural expectations. They should be well informed of the developing situation and relay any changes in procedure to their staff, while managing the high-level stress about the impact on the business and their position in it. Leaders should be reassuring their team and managing the internal anxiety.
This also includes self-care; although it is unrealistic to expect leaders can have all the answers, their people often do just that. Recognise your own stress signature and give yourself the time and space you need to recover and restore when you can.
Don’t make assumptions
Each person’s background is unique and, therefore, it’s important to not assume anything about anyone’s personal lives, ethnicity or race. Employers should raise awareness of differences between people to help build tolerance, understanding and acceptance among employees.
It’s important for leaders to acknowledge we have to adapt our communication to meet team members’ individual needs. Culture informs communications, so employers should facilitate a respectful and curious discussion about this in the workplace.
Manage the most effected team members
When a global crisis such as COVID-19 touches the nation, it’s natural for some people to gravitate towards panic, self-preservation and confrontation. To avoid conflict and detrimental relationships between staff members, it’s important for leaders to develop strategies to successfully manage challenging workplace conflicts.
An informal Q&A session between employee and employer can help to dispel any misconceptions, as well as acknowledging how the individual works and offering reassurance continuously.
It’s important for employers to check in with their team members. Regular check-ins help people to feel connected, and managers should try to provide structure for employees. The situation is constantly changing and evolving, so reassuring people we are in this together is vital.
Inform employees where they can get support if they are struggling or feeling overwhelmed. Emotions will be heightened and there is a range of emotional responses which are normal under these times of crisis.
Normalising reaching out for help at this time should be a priority.
Marcela Slepica, clinical services director of employer assistance program provider AccessEAP