2020 will forever be remembered as one of the most stressful years of the 21st century. But despite the uncertainty, there are plenty of practical, hands-on ways you can manage and support your employees through this difficult time.
No corner of the working world has been left unaffected by the impact of COVID-19, and with a vaccine still pending, many employees will be feeling heightened levels of stress and anxiety this year. This means it’s crucial that management and HR are aligned on internal policies and communication strategies to put employees’ minds at ease and clear the way for a productive autumn and winter.
Feeling safe and secure in the work environment is one of the most important contributing factors to employee satisfaction. Investing in further education, providing tools to stay calm, and recognizing employee performance are just some of the ways management can create a safe and secure environment. And the best part? None of these strategies need to break the bank.
Align on support strategies
The impact of COVID-19 can be triggering for so many reasons — an employee may be worried about their own health or the health of a loved one. They may be experiencing loneliness from limited socializing, or they may have more work than usual due to reduced hours. Whatever the reasons, management must ensure that team leads and supervisors are aware of the support services provided within the organization.
Supervisors, managers, and colleagues are often the first to notice stress or anxiety in their team, and it’s important any behavior changes don’t go unnoticed. HR and management should therefore work together to create a program of regular catch-ups, check-ins, and performance reviews to support any struggling team members. This extra time and care won’t go unnoticed, and as research shows, just having someone to talk to is enough to calm nerves and reduce stress.
Don’t forget about benefits
Company budgets have been cut this year, but you can still show appreciation to your team through low-cost benefits. Ideally, these benefits will tap into managing and reducing stress as well as personal development. Meditation, for example, is a fantastic stress reducer. A study by medicine.net shows that just 10 minutes of meditating every day helps control stress, reduce anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and lower blood pressure. Meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm include corporate offerings, so you can purchase an account for your entire team. Your employees will feel reassured by the fact you are investing in them, and will feel more centered and calm from meditation practice.
Did you know learning a new language actually reduces stress? That’s because focusing on a challenge that also improves job prospects is inherently calming and helps take learners’ minds off external worries. The corporate offering from Babbel for Business gives your entire company access to 14 languages with courses designed for learners at all levels. Because the platform is entirely digital, the cost is significantly lower than in-person lessons, and many courses have been created to cater to specific industries, from pharmaceutical to hospitality to finance.
There are thousands of studies that show that regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety. Physical activity produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that essentially act as painkillers. In their report on stress and exercise, Mayo Clinic found that exercise acts as an antidote to pre-existing stress and helps diminish the effects. Exercise also mimics the effects of meditation. It forces you to focus fully on the moment — to get through that set of burpees or to win that tennis match or to do your first pushup. Similarly, it triggers a sense of achievement that boosts confidence in other areas of life. Exercise improves sleep, increases energy levels, and boosts concentration and focus — which will benefit both your employees and the company as a whole.
Transparency is key
There’s a reason why this year has been so stressful — it’s because we’re being faced with totally new challenges, and it’s almost impossible to predict the outcome. Humans are hardwired to dislike uncertainty. A 2016 study by Nature Communications asked a group of volunteers to turn over rocks that might have snakes hidden under them. If a snake appeared, they’d get an electric shock. The study showed that their stress response wasn’t triggered by the electric shock — it was triggered by the unknown.
Uncertainty causes a significantly higher stress response than knowing something bad is going to happen, which is why employees will feel less stressed and more secure if they know what the future holds. It’s therefore crucial that management holds regular, company-wide meetings to share updates and developments within the company. Even if it isn’t always good news, employees will appreciate your candor and will feel reassured to have clarity.
Since 2017 Babbel for Business has worked with companies to accelerate professional development. If you’d like to learn how digital language learning can benefit your company, then get in touch with one of our team.