Supporting your Teams in Stressful Situations
There’s a lot going on in the news about the COVID-19 coronavirus that may be making you or your employees feel anxious about health and safety. With words like “global,” “pandemic” and “outbreak” being increasingly used in news coverage, it’s common to experience a range of emotional, mental or behavioral reactions that are unfamiliar or hard to address.
As a manager, it can be especially tough to know how best to support your teams, as stress can manifest itself in different ways. The virus may make people feel worried about traveling, commuting on public transportation, or even coming into work if they feel like their work environment isn’t taking sufficient precautions.
Here are some tools for you to cope with ongoing news coverage and ideas for ways that you can support your team’s physical and emotional health.
First, recognize signs of stressors
It’s common for people to express stress in different ways in response to widespread health crises or traumatic events. Some common reactions to look out for include:
- Emotions: Fear, irritability, anger, sadness or guilt
- Thoughts: Finding it hard to gather your thoughts, recurring dreams and nightmares, or blaming yourself or others.
- Behaviors: Keeping yourself excessively busy, isolating yourself, or being overly cautious
- Physical: Tiredness, headaches, increased heart rate, or difficulty breathing
Second, empower your team to put their self care first
It can be hard for employees to ask their employers and managers for support, or even know where to start. Be proactive about communicating with your team, and letting them know that you’re supportive of them prioritizing their self care.
- Communicate safety protocols: If your People team hasn’t already done so, request them to send a company-wide email informing employees about preventative actions the company is taking to ensure employee health & safety. This includes showcasing flexibility to employees to be able to work from home for as long as needed, if necessary.
- Follow-up with your team: During your next team meeting, address any concerns or questions, and make tactical adjustments to team practices as necessary.
✓ Discuss any upcoming work trips and whether your team members feel comfortable with the travel.
✓ Encourage team members to work from home if they’re feeling at all unwell, so that neither they nor their teammates in the office feel nervous about getting sick.
✓ Add video conferencing to all recurring meetings to enable people to work from home if they choose to.
- Offer support, not stigma: Keep things positive and supportive. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma against certain populations that are more affected by the virus. Intercept any stigma-induced comments or behavior that you observe to ensure that you’re creating an emotionally safe environment for all of your employees.
Lastly, stay informed of the facts
We know there are many sources of news out there that are covering updates related to the virus. To avoid misinformation and stay up-to-date with the latest information, we suggest referring to the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites.
We encourage you to share this information and have created a downloadable poster below to use in your workplace