Some of the unfortunate aspects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is uncertainty and stress among employees. How do you guide your workforce through it?
Uncertainty and fear for the future are understandable, but it can create additional stress for an already stressful workforce management situation.
Employees Must Come First in Planning
It's been almost two months since the governor of California instituted statewide stay-at-home rules. Since that time, thousands of businesses have shifted to a largely and, in some instances, completely remote workforce.
For most of these companies and their employees, this shift was both unexpected and unprecedented. In the course of the last two months a number of communication and operational challenges have been addressed and worked through. For employees, this has also been an extended period of uncertainty that has fueled anxiety and fear.
And understandably so.
In California alone, unemployment claims have jumped past the 4 million mark in seven weeks, a spike that is directly linked to the coronavirus threat. The San Francisco Chronicle’s layoff tracker shows at least 92,000 jobs lost temporarily or permanently in the Bay Area.
The number of businesses in California that have closed their doors for good, leaving their former employees without jobs to come back to, is still rising. In the meantime, many other businesses continue to struggle with many on the brink of closure themselves.
For individual employees, not knowing what the next steps will be, if there will be any next steps, or if they will have to continue working from home indefinitely can create an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. The stress that results can cause employees to become much less engaged and much more distracted.
For managers and owners, this is a workforce management challenge that requires enhanced awareness and new "best practices."
What Employees Want - And Need - From Leaders
According to a recent article at Entrepreneur Magazine,
"According to Gallup, “Global citizens look to leadership to provide a path — and to provide confidence that there is a way forward that they can contribute to.” Unfortunately, that cannot always happen, especially when leadership and organizations don’t have the answers employees are seeking.
But the good news is, there are universal needs that employees look for in a leader during uncertain times. Gallup has identified four specific needs: trust, compassion, stability and hope."
In this current crisis, employees suddenly having to work in unfamiliar circumstances are looking for the familiar, reliable and consistent.
Steps for Minimizing Uncertainty While Fostering Engagement
Most every business impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak that are still open, have had to offer their employees the ability to work from home.
But beyond offering location flexibility and paid sick time, many of these organizations have also had to equip their employees to work from anywhere while their offices remain closed for an extended period of time. This also has empowered employees to take a new level of ownership of their own roles because of the increased need for trust and autonomy.
However, this added degree of accountability often brings its own added stress in an already stressful situation. Fortunately, there are a number of steps management can take to alleviate much of this:
Offer Learning Courses
Technology advancements have made it simple and cost-effective for HR managers to provide employees with the tools needed to perform their regular tasks. In addition to these tools, offering work-related learning and development programs to remote workers can give them guidance to thrive on the job while working from home.
For example, courses on productivity, communication and stress management can help employees navigate uncertainty while also equipping them with valuable soft skills.
Owners and managers should communicate why and how management decisions are made as openly and comprehensively as possible. Open, frequent, and honest communication is significantly effective for creating an environment of trust and minimizing any sense of isolation.
This does not mean that workers should be privy to every detail of every decision, but it may mean being far more accessible and frank than many organizations have been prior to the current crisis.
Listen With Empathy
Communication is more than telling. Being physically remote can be both limiting and liberating for two-way communication with employees. The casual hallway conversations and ad-hoc meetings may not happen now. But many employees find that they can express themselves more easily without the mental and emotional hindrances that come with face-to-face communication.
This is an opportunity to really listen to what is going on in the minds of employees. Leaders and managers cannot effectively address and work to mitigate fears and concerns if they are not hearing what those fears and concerns are. In addition, working from home means each employee has unique situations and challenges for doing their jobs.
Your Partners for Remote Workforce Management
HR staff have a demanding role in recruiting, hiring, and continually training employees. The current situation with the coronavirus pandemic has presented many unanticipated issues and challenges. In addition, HR employees are responsible for other functions such as employee development, payroll management, employee records compliance, and managing employee benefits.
Outsourcing is increasingly becoming a cost-effective and strategic option. Accuchex can help you in managing your HR needs, payroll processes, and staying on top of compliance demands.
Get your Free Download: Payroll Outsourcing Guide to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.