Coping with uncertainty or stressful situations is something we all have to deal with in life – perhaps now more than ever.
With ‘uncertainty’ being the byword to describe current global events, it’s only natural that many people may start to be feeling anxious or even overwhelmed – after all, when was the last time you lived through a global pandemic?
With our usual routines and sense of normality essentially being put on hold, we’re all having to adapt to a new, unfamiliar way of living. Whilst there’ll be those who’ll quickly become accustomed to working from home and drastically changing their social habits, there’ll also be a great number who’ll be worried about what the future holds for them and those closest to them, too.
With COVID-19 seemingly here for the long-term, we’ve all got a duty to ensure we look out for one another – and helping people manage their feelings of anxiety and stress something simple anyone can do to help.
IMPROVISE. ADAPT. OVERCOME.
The thing with anxiety is that it’s a totally normal response to stressful situations. It’s your body’s natural reaction to feelings of apprehension; be it a job interview, giving a speech or even a first date! We’ll all be familiar with it, but if it becomes the overriding sensation you feel every day, it can become a serious problem.
With many of us facing a challenging few weeks and months, it’s easy for anxiety and stress to start getting the better of us. In the worst cases, it can start interfering with your life and, in extreme cases, lead to anxiety disorders such as PTSD, panic attacks and even depression.
With all of us feeling under pressure, we can’t state how important it is for everyone to reach out and speak out if they’re feeling overly anxious. But with social distancing measures in place and face-to-face contact being limited, what can be done to manage anxiety effectively?
With many people potentially losing valuable social outlets, it’s time for employers to step up and improvise to be a positive influence on the wellbeing of their people even when they’re working remotely. And yes, we all know that organisations of all sorts are going to have their hands full with the continuation of their businesses; but employees play an invaluable part of driving success – especially when times are tough.
Luckily, helping your employees manage their anxiety is one way you can support that positive mental wellbeing we all need. It doesn’t take huge amounts of resources or even additional workloads! It can however make a world of difference for your most precious of assets…
ENCOURAGE OPEN DIALOGUE AND REGULAR CONTACT
The current periods of social distancing or isolation are there to protect the most vulnerable in society from the spread of COVID-19. However, over longer periods, distancing and isolation can mean that people start to lose those all-important social interactions we all need to maintain healthy mental wellbeing.
If you’re one of the businesses that now has a scattered and remote-working workforce, encourage them to keep open communication channels through social and professional networking platforms – even the good old-fashioned telephone! Slack, WhatsApp, MS Teams… You get the idea. Having regular communications with your employees is also a great way to maintain engagement, so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Sometimes all anyone needs to feel less anxious about things is a good chat with a friend or colleague. So, try to keep in regular contact with your people working from home through regular social comms, emails, and video catch ups.
SHARE POSITIVE NEWS
In challenging times, it can be all-too easy to become wrapped up in negativity. With news and current events available at our fingertips 24/7, becoming focused on only the bad things going on the world can simply add to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.
Employers can help combat this by sharing positive stories with their people; be it from within the business, personal successes or simply stories that can keep people’s spirits up! Tie this into an effective communication strategy, and you can help spread good vibes that can help people take their minds of things outside of their control.
ADAPT TO A NEW WORKING ROUTINE
One of the pressures of working from home can be distractions you wouldn’t normally get in an office environment (children, anyone?!).
You can help dispel this by talking to your people to see how they can be supported whilst working from home: A weekly or daily work plan with agreed targets and deadlines is a great way to do this, plus gives your people something to focus the mind, too.
Remember that working from home may be a completely new experience for your people and they may feel anxious at having to ‘go it alone’ for a while. As long as you keep an open dialogue, check in regularly and trust them to get on with their jobs, you can help put their minds a little more at ease.
HELP WITH ACCESS TO PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
It may reach a point where your employees need a little extra support to help them get through tough times. Being the kind of employer that helps with access with professional mental health support can be utterly priceless.
An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) gives employees access to professional mental health support in the form of accredited counsellors. They’re on hand 24/7, 365 days a year either on the phone, email or over email – and can offer free, confidential mental health support.
Whilst we all need to break the stigma of talking about mental health issues such as anxiety, your people may feel uncomfortable reaching out to friends, family or colleagues to talk about their problems. Access to an EAP can give them that crucial outlet to reach out and get the help they may need to make it through life’s challenges.
BE COMPASSIONATE AND HELP WORK THROUGH PROBLEMS
If you’re finding your employees beginning to sound overly negative about things, it may be the case that anxiety is creeping up on them.
When it comes to work, it’s the little things that can give it away; saying things like, ‘Oh I’m really struggling with this’ when it comes to regular tasks or being overly self-deprecating during conversations. If your employees reach out to say they’re finding things tough, you can help manage those feelings of anxiety by helping them work through a problem together.
You can also show compassion in the type of language you use. For example, if they’re encountering a difficulty which you’ve experienced or can easily solve, responding with something like, ‘Yeah, I’ve struggled with this before, it’s frustrating!’ shows it’s not just them getting wound up! It also helps to ‘normalise’ the behaviour.
By normalising the problem and bringing it out into the open, it helps those who may feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health that it’s perfectly normal and not just them!
DON’T FORGET TO KEEP ACTIVE
Whilst we all have a duty to stay socially distance over the coming weeks, keeping physically active is just as important to help maintain healthy physical wellbeing – which in turn, can help boost morale and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Anything that gets you moving can do the trick: be it just taking a 5-minute break away from your computer screen to stretch, to even taking some time out to do some gardening! So, encourage your people to keep active whenever they can and take time out away from their work to get up and get active.
With the UK Government currently advising to exercise outdoors once a day and at least 2 meters apart from other people, it’s still possible to enjoy walks or bike rides to maintain your regular physical activity. There’s also plenty of online exercise classes and apps available which you can signpost to you people if they’re self-isolating or have only limited outside space.
SUPPORT YOUR EMPLOYEES TODAY, BE READY FOR THE CHALLENGES OF TOMORROW
Helping support your employees' wellbeing helps in two ways: Firstly, a healthy and happy workforce will be better placed to tackle the challenges your business faces. Secondly, you'll be sewing the seeds of a positive company culture - a critical part of any successful organisation. So, what's stopping you?
Learn more about the benefits of an Employee Assistance Programme and how it can help your business - just click the link below to discover more!