Managers: Watch For Workplace Stress During The Pandemic

by Susan Henson
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Work life has always had its stressful moments. But now, with the pandemic, the election, fires, hurricanes, homeschooling, Zoom calls… the list goes on, it’s easy for stress levels to elevate quickly. Stress can lead to both physical and mental health issues, job dissatisfaction, and burnout. So managers, if you notice a team member showing signs of stress, reach out right away to open a line of communication, delve deeper into the employee’s concerns, and do what you can to start to relieve workplace stress.

The Pandemic is Increasing Mental Health Issues 

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that nearly half (53%) of Americans report that the pandemic is having a serious impact on their mental health. This is up from 32% reported in March. Kaiser also reported additional negative behavioral effects, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) and eating (32%), increases in excessive alcohol consumption or substance abuse (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%). 

Signs of Stress

Here are some of the signs of stress to watch for. Pay close attention when you are interacting with your team members for any signals that stress is affecting their work life negatively.

  • Irritation
  • Anger
  • Uncertainty
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sadness 
  • Depression 
  • Trouble concentrating

How Can Employers Un-stress the Office

Although some employees may be anxious to get back to normal work life, some returning employees might be very fearful and anxious about being around colleagues or customers who could be infected with the coronavirus. After social distancing for six months or longer, being in close proximity to people, even with personal protective equipment can be very uncomfortable. Respect the social distancing boundaries as much as possible, and have your employees wear masks to ensure all employees are comfortable, and make sure to establish an open-door policy for team members to share concerns.

How Employers Can Help Employees Cope With Stress

Eliminating uncertainty for team members, helping them solve work problems and being a good listener are a few ways to help employees cope with and alleviate stress. A recent article by the Society of Human Resources Management suggested the following tips for employers. 

  • Make sure they know how to access employer-provided mental health resources.
  • Encourage self-care, such as getting enough sleep, exercising,and  taking breaks during the work day
  • Encourage them to end each workday at the same time.
  • Share facts about COVID-19, including prevention tips and risk factors.

Most importantly, if you sense a colleague is struggling with workplace stress, reach out and let them know you are concerned about them beyond their job performance, and want to do what you can as their manager to help. 

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