How do you support the mental well-being of your staff in Coronavirus times?
Plenty has already been written about the economic impact of the Coronavirus crisis. Now it seems that the measures are being eased in earnest, one pertinent question remains: what is the psychological impact of this crisis? And above all: how can you - the employer - offer proper support to employees who are struggling with anxiety, stress or uncertainty?
Psychologists already sent out a stark warning about the psychosocial well-being of the population. There is little doubt that this crisis will affect people mentally very significantly too. Anxiety, uncertainty and frustration are all natural responses to exceptional circumstances. What’s more, no two people are alike. It is difficult to predict how each individual will deal with this situation.
Take three basic needs into account
To help and motivate your employees, you must try to understand their underlying needs. The self-determination theory from occupational psychology can help with this. This model defines three basic needs that may be at risk of overloading during and after this crisis. By paying attention to these needs, you will motivate your employees in the long term and focus on both their well-being and that of your organisation.
1. Autonomy: individual freedom and the ability to make choices
In times of crisis, decisions are taken quickly and by the powers that be out of necessity or urgency. This makes people feel that their freedom is being curtailed and their voice is diminished. Respect the autonomy of your employees as much as possible and do not act too controlling; involve them in the search for solutions. Give people trust and freedom where possible, for example by being flexible in their work routine, schedule or tasks.
2. Connectedness: the feeling of being part of something
Teleworking can dilute the feeling of being part of a team and people can feel isolated. Rituals and visibility are important to maintain a feeling of connectedness. So make sure you stick to appointment times and weekly video calls that promote team spirit. Even digitally. For example, start a video meeting with a short, informal chat or end the week with a virtual drink.
3. Competence: being good at what you do
Your employees are not able to perform their usual tasks - or not in the same way as before. They might even be required to perform tasks that are completely new to them. This may affect their feelings of competence. Ask your employees explicitly what they need and how they want to be deployed. Bear in mind that people have individual differences and preferences. Feedback is useful, as long as there is also sufficient focus on the things that are going well.
Listen to your employees
We are inclined to communicate only about things that are certain. However, in these times we also have to talk about matters that are uncertain or unknown. Always be honest in your communication with employees. Be open and clear about why you are taking certain measures and about your efforts to support colleagues.
Each person has their own way of reacting to this crisis, and this can vary greatly from one individual to another. Some will hardly be affected, while others might feel very insecure, uncertain or frustrated. For this reason, you and your managers should make sure you create plenty of time and opportunity to listen to the needs of your employees. It is important here that you try to listen without projecting your own opinion or feelings. You could ask your employees the following questions:
- How's work(ing from home) going?
- How are you feeling? Tell me how you really are.
- How do you feel about the workload?
- How can I/we support you?
Develop a Coronavirus wellbeing policy
It is important to maintain an unambiguous line of support for your employees. Do not make random or rushed decisions, but record them in a ‘Coronavirus welfare policy'. This policy should be in line with your company values, and creates a framework that you can always refer back to as a guide.
It is important to give employees a chance to participate and have their say. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended: consult and involve your prevention advisor, occupational health doctor, psychosocial expert etc. The Mensura experts are available to support you.