By Vicki White, Vice President Operations, OC Reilly, Inc.

(Sept. 27, 2021)–The COVID-19 pandemic has upset innumerable processes and procedures, without question. But inherent in all that disruption is a factor that may not get quite as much attention – but one that holds the key to coping and recovery.

That pivotal factor is dealing with the stress the pandemic has increased among employees, their families, and the organization’s customers. How people manage through a period of heightened stress has significant ripple effects on performance and, ultimately, a business’ reputation. From a personal and professional perspective, it has changed my everyday life in many ways. Slowly though, it feels like life is somewhat returning to normal as we learn how to deal with the virus instead of it controlling us.

In the current environment, where the coronavirus has proven to be resilient and inescapable, being sensitive to pressures affecting people has become more important than ever. Individuals may still be isolated from family and friends. They could be concerned for their children as in-school COVID cases rise and the need for home-based learning increases. They could be delaying needed physical and mental health care attention as the virus dominates medical systems. And they may be grieving the loss of loved ones to the disease.

Leaders must tell their teams that they empathize with what they’re experiencing. But more than simply telling them this key message, leaders need to back up their spoken words with visible, tangible actions, such as:

  • Encouraging employees to share the fact that they may be struggling, by fostering and maintaining a safe, confidential, and welcoming space.
  • Collaborating with employees to develop creative and constructive solutions to help people adapt and succeed during these extraordinary times.
  • Referring employees to seek professional counseling and expressing support and approval.

Leaders can’t make the pandemic go away, but they can act in ways that make coping with the related stress a little easier, a little safer, and a little more effective. The pandemic won’t last forever. But until the day it’s gone, employees deserve to know they’re being listened to, respected, understood, and supported.

Source: “How leaders can reduce stress for employees instead of adding to it,” HFM Magazine, March 2021.
© 2021 OC Reilly, Inc.