How to deal with Covid anxiety in workplaces

As the summer vacation returns, employees expected to come back to school with clarified perspectives on the future after Covid19. However, the situation remains unclear and it is difficult for decision-makers and HR to have a unanimous answer to employees’ questions. This crisis situation challenges HR to the crucial role they play in managing psychosocial risks such as anxiety, a complex and contagious emotion.

Understand the mechanisms of anxiety in the office

According to an Opinion Way survey for Human Footprint in April 2020, in France, 10,000 work accidents per year are linked to psychosocial risks. Deriving from fear, anxiety revolves around feelings like uncertainty and a future that remains unclear. In the current context, there are many fears that occupy the minds of stressed employees:

Fear of transmitting Covid19 to a loved one after contracting it in the office,

Fear of losing their job or of deteriorating working conditions,

Feeling of helplessness in the face of this situation with no clear way out and beyond their control.

How does an employee behave in the grip of anxiety?

Anxiety can result in many types of behavior, which requires careful reading of weak signals from HR and managers. For example, an anxious employee could adopt avoidance strategies (conscious or unconscious): procrastination, reduced attention, difficulty delegating tasks, a need to check work several times or on the contrary provide the minimum necessary. These behaviors betray a lack of certainty in decisions and actions. The person then seeks either to minimize or ignore the source of anxiety, or to want to secure the perimeter at all costs. In interpersonal relationships, the person feels the need to interpret the thoughts of his interlocutors in an excessive way and can perceive any interaction in a very personal, sometimes negative, way to see a desire to harm them. In this context, while HR and managers cannot control how their employees feel, their role is no less important.

According to Jennyfer Montantin, Human Resources consultant specializing in business transition, a crisis situation presents the opportunity for managers to develop their position. According to her, bringing HR and managers closer together is essential to better respond to anxiety. “Companies in which issues of this nature are well managed are companies in which managers have HR responsibility,” she notes. HR is then free to adopt a more strategic role between managers and employees. Jennyfer Montantin advocates top-down dialogue: “Anxiety can emerge when management does not want to engage in dialogue, which creates frustration that must be managed, which ultimately leads to disengagement.”

She then describes a case where HR had chosen a multidimensional approach to manage a large number of sick absences. The company simultaneously undertook various actions: support groups, massage therapists for the physical aspect and revised and adapted management. “We cannot manage an anxiety-provoking situation with just one tool, because each employee will be sensitive to different approaches to demonstrate recognition in their distress,” she concludes.

4 tips to help anxious employees bounce back

Take the pulse to be able to address the need for security

To tackle this often-taboo mental health topic, you have two options: the anonymized survey or the personal interview. This is about listening to each other’s concerns and therefore presenting the interest of the employee.

Provide a reassuring work environment to help with the transition

The resumption of transport and a pace of face-to-face work with its share of direct interactions, that remote working to returning to the office. HR can also act here by reminding managers, for example, the respect for the right to disconnect from work. Break times are essential to go to play sports, take care of personal affairs or simply have a good time!

Strengthen social ties and the feeling of solidarity

Fostering dialogue between employees helps break the isolation that a state of anxiety can create, helping groups, collaborative projects, everything is a good pretext to exchange ideas outside of current missions. Employees then feel less alone in their issues and face other points of view.

Invite people to take a step back to find solutions together

Encourage employees to adopt an active posture in order to tackle the crisis and to participate in the reflection on the future of the company. Through managers, HR can invite employees to foresee their future. You can suggest a reflection around resilience, what does it mean for the activity, for the teams? How can they contribute to the great mission of the company? Projecting into the future allow them to take a distance from daily stressors matters.

Source : May Trebuil (www.myrhline.com)