During this COVID-19 pandemic, your employee’s anxiety is skyrocketing. There have been reports that 80% of employees are highly anxious. They are worried about losing their job, many are isolated working from home, and they are extremely concerned that they will catch the coronavirus.
We expect that we will be anxious in such an emergency; however, anxiety can be crippling. Panic attacks are a response to anxiety and can be terrifying with symptoms including:
- “Racing” heart.
- Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy.
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers.
- Sense of terror, or impending doom or death.
- Feeling sweaty or having chills.
- Chest pains.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Feeling a loss of control.
Anxiety and panic can prevent people from carrying out everyday tasks such as walking into a busy shopping centre, driving in traffic and standing in a crowd. During the COVID-19 crisis, for example, we have seen huge crowds to buy groceries, and many anxious people are being affected.
See our article, Coronavirus Impacts Mental Health and Safety.
How Can You Reduce Your Employee’s Anxiety to Help Them Continue to be Productive?
Here are eight practical strategies that employers can use to reduce their employee’s anxiety and support them through the COVID-19 upheaval.
1. Ensure that you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place and that your employees know how to access it when they are experiencing ongoing anxiety and feel they need help. Where you can, link them to online counselling services.
2. Offer mental health training and support through online providers. Courses that teach coping strategies are helpful because they can give immediate relief.
The Tap into Safety online and mobile-friendly platform has mental health training and support to reduce your employee’s anxiety with two dedicated modules.
This module details the signs and symptoms of anxiety to help guide supervisors, managers and work colleagues on what to look for when working with others. The training provides strategies, exercises and activities that they can use to relieve anxiety symptoms and advises when to seek professional help.
The module teaches the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression to encourage employees to recognise them early so that they can begin to address them. The training offers some immediate exercises and activities that employees can do to relieve the symptoms. Learn more about generalised anxiety disorder and access some free resources to help.
See our article, Introducing Mental Health Programs for Business.
3. Take a look at free online health promotion activities to encourage healthy lifestyle habits. In this COVID-19 crisis, you need your employees to remain well.
See our article, Alcohol Can Increase Depressive Thoughts.
How Do You Keep Your Employees Socially Connected?
4. To reduce your employee’s anxiety, you must establish social supports at work. With the COVID-19 crisis, we are encouraging our employees to work from home and there is a real danger that social connections will reduce or disappear.
Loneliness and isolation can have negative impacts while working from home. Employers should create chat forums, phone calls, and video conferences with regular check-ins. For anxious employees, they must have a colleague who they can reach out to and make contact.
Employers need to consider their communication style and tone of voice, especially during this time to reduce their employee’s anxiety. Anxious employees have a lower tolerance for exposure to aggression and a lower threshold for interpreting behaviour; for example, they may think that they are being bullied.
Providing employee’s with autonomy and remaining positive helps to relieve anxiety symptoms.
5. During this COVID-19 emergency, with many employees working from home, and many staying at the workplace, they may have to negotiate around family obligations. Employers need to be flexible and provide work arrangements to help their employees manage children who are no longer at school or in childminding.
Adjusting work schedules and duties to allow for rotations between client-facing, back-office and working from home can help. Also, it might be an excellent time to approve annual leave.
How Do You Manage Your Employees Through the COVID-19 Crisis?
6. In stressful times, tolerance is often tested. It is vital that organisations continue a zero-tolerance for discrimination and bullying. Workplace bullying has been shown to have significant negative impacts on the business bottom line. There is evidence of increased absenteeism and presenteeism, higher rates of staff turnover and high legal costs when cases erupt. It is estimated that workplace bullying costs Australian organisations $6 – $36 billion a year with 5-7% of employees experiencing bullying every year at work.
See our article, Does Workplace Bullying Have Long Term Effects?
7. Anxious employees may make excessive lists, work longer than others, and often procrastinate. It’s a good idea to check in with anxious workers to ensure that they are clear about the tasks they need to achieve. You may find that offering them some reassurance and positive feedback goes a long way.
See our article, COVID-19 and Mental Health Support.
8. Learn how to use technology. With travel bans firmly in place, now is an excellent time for organisations to invest in technology for communication, training and project management.
Anxious employees can have long-term health problems and employers have a responsibility to reduce their employee’s anxiety. There are eight strategies that organisations can use during this COVID-19 emergency. First, they should engage and EAP and make sure their employees know how to contact them. Second, they should offer mental health training and support through online providers to teach coping strategies. Third, free online health programs are available to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the urge to turn to alcohol to relieve anxiety symptoms.
Other strategies include creating social support and ensuring social connectedness, as well as being flexible with working arrangements around family obligations. Employers should create chat forums, phone calls, and video conferences with regular check-ins. For anxious employees, it is critical that they have a colleague who they can reach out to and make contact. Employers also need to consider their communication style and tone of voice, especially during this time to reduce their employee’s anxiety.
A sixth strategy to reduce employee’s anxiety is for organisations to continue a zero-tolerance for discrimination and bullying. In stressful times, tolerance is often tested. The seventh strategy is to make sure that managers are clear about the tasks that their employees need to achieve. Finally, embracing technology helps to assist with communication, training and project management.