Business leaders have long been encouraged to create a crisis management plan to help them respond to unlikely but potentially devastating events. Companies with a plan have likely already implemented it. Those without one are likely creating it on the fly. Usually, these plans focus on financial matters, supply chain issues, technology adaptations, public relations, and the handling of resources. One element often neglected in crisis management is a strategy to care for your staff.
What Your Employees are Feeling Right Now
How employees’ jobs are affected by today’s health crisis depends of course on how your business has been affected. If you’re an essential business, employees may feel lucky to have a job but burned out by the intensity of working with the public. If you’re in a position to allow people to work from home, employees may be feeling isolated and unsupported. If you’ve had to furlough employees, even with the intention of bringing them back, they likely feel insecure and vulnerable. No matter what your employees are experiencing right now, experts say most everyone is coping with varying levels of fear, unease, sadness, and powerlessness.
How You Can Help
Your path to become an effective leader likely did not include training as a professional counselor. That’s okay – you don’t need a special license in order to be supportive. Your attitude and actions can go a long way toward taking the edge off for your employees. Follow these guidelines:
Show empathy. Everyone is experiencing this crisis in different ways. You may not be able to personally relate to what people are going through, but you should do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Never minimize someone’s fears or worries.
Continue efforts to engage employees. Keeping your employees engaged means providing them with opportunities to learn new skills, offer input when possible, and participate in teambuilding activities, even if they’re remote. If you have a large staff, work with mentors, team leaders, and assistant managers to keep engagement levels high.
Build trust that goes both ways. Part of crisis management is earning trust and extending it. Be honest with your employees, and trust that they are being honest with you. Now is a time for flexibility and openness, not doubt and skepticism.
Provide resources. If your company benefits plan includes an employee assistance program (EAP), make sure your employees know how to access it. Beyond what may be offered as a benefit, create a list of resources in the community that might be helpful during the crisis. This can include everything from crisis hotlines and online yoga classes to grocery delivery services and food banks. Your employees don’t expect you to solve all their problems, but they should know you have their backs. And even if they don’t need the resources on your list, they may be able to pass the information along to someone who does.
Throughout the crisis management process, leaders must strive to lead by example and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to excellence. To do that, and to have the strength to take care for others, you must first take care of yourself. The CDC recommends these ways to cope with stress during the current crisis:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.