Ten tips For Managing Stress During COVID-19
Dave has been furloughed. He is worried about providing for his family and the risk of a future lockdown if there is a second wave of COVID-19.
Sarah found out in early April that she is now pregnant and is anxious about being asked to return to the workplace after working from home since early March.
Liz is a lawyer who became newly divorced in February 2020. She has young son who is now staying with his father and grandparents because Liz tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. She is lonely and distraught over when she will be reunited with her child.
These stories are not unique. A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that nearly half of American adults reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.
As the workplace re-entry program continues to occur in a four-phase approach in Massachusetts and other States, it may be another few months before most companies will be open to the public and many employees continue to work from home.
The following suggestions may help you to mitigate employee stress as you prepare your own workspace for re-entry.
Ten Tips for Team Leaders
1. Be aware of the signs of stress so that you can recognize them in team members and yourself. These can include reduced work performance and lack of interest, changes in behavior, and being overly emotional.
2. Help employees to create a structured day that balances work and personal needs and provides opportunities for not only work topics but connecting with friends and family. This can also include dressing for work and having a start and end time to the working day as well as taking regular breaks. Encourage employees to have a buddy who they can have virtual lunch or tea breaks with. This will help ease loneliness while taking a mental step away from work.
3. In addition to checking in with team members at the end of the day to establish what their progress and status is on projects; ask how they are doing and what their changing needs are. Video is useful to establish nuances and body language that can indicate that someone is struggling.
4. Vary the means of communication such as video, email, text, and phone call and consider having a non-video day once per week. Follow up calls with an email.
5. Create a team activity either daily or twice a week to promote engagement and connectivity. These can include group exercise sessions, Monday meditation, morning coffee break prior to starting the workday, virtual lunch, and even fun activities such as a treasure hunt where the clues point to hidden treasure items found in many homes. At home mindfulness sessions can also include keeping a journal, or beginning a gratitude practice, or keeping a gratitude jar where employees can write out what they are grateful for and what they have learned.
6. Encourage team members to stay physically active either through online group programs or by taking a daily walk, cycle, or running outdoors. Exercise benefits the body and mind and helps promote better sleep. There are apps available to help employees “buddy-up” as they complete workouts.
7. Provide online training to learn new skills and keep employees up-to-date with policy changes. Online training also acts as a distraction and staves off boredom if all the Netflix programs have been watched!
8. Work with HR to build a return-to-work survey to establish if team members are facing any challenges such as technology or workspace issues or trying to work while teaching children at home.
9. Share E.A.P. information and any apps and trusted websites that aid counseling as well as other services that employees may need.
10. Be sure that people know how and when they can reach you especially if your office door was “always open.”
Each one of us needs to take care of our own mental health. When surrounded by uncertainty and loss it can be challenging to see a clear path forward. Managing stress is a necessary skill for life in general and knowing how to balance the pressures of working from home with one’s personal life will lead to a greater sense of resilience and coping with unfolding changes.
Margaret Stockley is the CEO of the online wellness training company www.POWCERT.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
She is also the author of multiple books including “Transforming Workplace Wellness” and “Stress Management At Work.”