How to Deal with Employees in the Midst of a Pandemic

As countries are slowly starting to go back to the way things were and employees go back to the office, a problem most employers face is how to deal with their employees during these difficult times.

The coronavirus pandemic is truly an unprecedented time. No one expected it. Every single country struggled—and some are still struggling—to cope with the consequences it brought. It has affected almost every aspect of our lives. Many countries had to impose lockdowns and prevent everyone from going out except for essential needs. Employees were forced to work from home. The uncertainties brought about by the pandemic also affected everyone’s mental health.

The “new normal” requires a change of behavior to include social distancing. This might represent a psychological stress test to the collaborative cultures companies worked so hard to build. The compounded threat of the contagious disease, the impact on employees’ families and job security and the disruption to the invisible social fabric of life in general may leave lasting scars and impede eventual recovery after the crisis.

But no matter how difficult it is to live in a pandemic, we have to cope with the new normal. As countries are slowly starting to go back to the way things were and employees go back to the office, a problem most employers face is how to deal with their employees during these difficult times.

Empathy comes first. Every employer should understand that their employees are going through a rough time because of the disruption the pandemic has brought into their lives. Employers should aim to understand the feelings and perspectives of their employees and use this understanding to guide them in their actions in making work-policy decisions. Employees tend to be more committed with their work when they know that their employers not only care about their output at work, but are concerned with their employees’ well-being, too.

Adopt an open-door policy. Employers should make their employees feel that they can discuss issues with them. This policy helps to create a friendly, welcoming and communicative culture. Having an open-door policy encourages open, flowing communication and will enable employers to become better equipped to take action to mitigate any problems in the workplace. If employees are sharing their worries or stresses, they are less likely to become overwhelmed.

Create a welcoming environment. It is important to have a welcoming environment as this will affect the overall mood of the entire staff. After being stuck at home for a few months, it can be difficult for an employee to go back to the way it was before the pandemic happened. Almost everyone is anxious of going outside when the threat of catching the virus is still imminent. Many employees need to adjust, so it is important for employers to support their employees in their adjustment period. Employers should try to keep tabs on the mood in their workplace.

Be transparent about the status of the company. The pandemic brought economic activity to a near-standstill as countries imposed quarantine measures and restrictions on movement to halt the spread of virus. Economists say that the pandemic caused economic damage, which represents the largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades. Many companies, big and small, have had shut downs, leaving their employees unemployed. Because of this, many employees are worried about job security. They may consistently think that they might soon join the pool of countless workers left unemployed by the pandemic—this makes them anxious. Employers should assure their employees of job security by being transparent about the status of the company. If the employees know that the company can survive the economic damage caused by the pandemic, they tend to focus more on being productive rather than constantly worrying about the possibility of losing their jobs.

Set reasonable expectations. Employers should inform their employees of their expectations in resuming work at the office. One way of curbing an employee's anxiety is to provide him with a concrete idea of what is expected of him to perform. This will also prevent confusion on his part by providing a measure of predictability.

Offer support. The workplace is often a place where people turn to others for help when they are dealing with problems. In these trying times, employers need to be supportive of their employees. If their employees have concerns or worries, they should be willing to address these concerns by offering whatever support the company can provide to the employees. Truly, this pandemic affected every aspect of our lives. When employees are under stress, it affects their productivity and creativity. Employees are trying to cope with these changes, and their employers should help them weather the storms. Employers’ demonstration of support can have a great impact on an employee’s overall condition and attitude towards work.

Be flexible. Stressful circumstances can trigger both progressions and regressions in employees’ focus and productivity. Acknowledging the multiple stressors and making fewer demands during less productive periods helps. If allowed by the business, employers should be open to flexible adaptations from time to time, like flexible working hours or a shift to a less demanding role. Flexibility can prevent the employee from being overwhelmed.

Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous challenges for organizations as they face difficult decisions about how to respond to the crisis and restructure their workplaces. Both employers and employees are now adjusting to the new normal. As employees go back to work after being stuck at home for a few months of quarantine, employers’ support is key to helping their employees deal with the stresses caused by the pandemic.

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