Supporting Employees Through Crises

Shawnee Love   •   August 18, 2021

These are immensely trying times for everyone I know (including myself)! While employers are not responsible for the mental health of their employees, they can support their employees’ mental health.

Personally, I have been finding it difficult to keep up with my blog due to the volume of HR need out there and what has been going on in the world with the fires and pandemic (and don’t get me started about the liberals calling an election).

I hope through this blog I can support employers in supporting their employees, individually and in teams.

Ways to support during crises and turbulent times include:

  1. Having Group Benefits: Extended health benefits usually offer coverage for paramedicals like psychologists and counselors. They may also include an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) which offers resources, triaging, and crisis counselling as well as a variety of other services to help employees in urgent need.
  2. Rethinking Timelines & Objectives: Managing expectations by ensuring they are realistic for the current times and environment is so important as the extra pressures experienced during emergencies are intense. I can speak personally, when I say it can be difficult to think straight when you are operating on minimal sleep and are worried about your home or family. For those people, more time and space may be needed to process the challenges they are facing as well as keep on top of the work. At the same time, I also recognize that coping for some people means keeping going and that’s okay too.  Either way, a little grace goes a long way.
  3. Checking-in: To learn about what is going on for folks and how they are doing, make check-ins part of your day. I also am a big fan of time in space for check-in‘s individually and with the groups. Daily check-in‘s for individuals are not a bad idea and challenging times really leaving giving the time and space and asking the question and listening for the answer not only does this build your reporting relationship and sense of trust for each other but you might learn something you didn’t know about the challenges your employees facing when they realize you truly care and that is how you can really strategize to help as well as anticipate what might be coming down the pipe. I also like group check-in‘s both for the purpose of building the teams sense of trust of each other but also to recognize how each other might support the others in getting to the finish lines that are set.
  4. Fostering Routines: Encouraging and routines (while being flexible when needed) are important during tough times because the regularity and predictability of a schedule is a lifeboat in the storm. Giving your people something consistent to rely on helps stabilize the chaos that may be occuring in other parts of their lives.
  5. Prioritizing Breaks: Making time for and ensuring your people take a breather throughout the day can be a powerful way to ground and restore balance (not to mention giving people a chance to exercise or stay atop of what is literally burning) in a crisis. Consider micro-breaks if you can’t afford long stretches away as I have seen some reports that they are great for refreshing mind, body and spirit.
  6. Communicating: When you are responsible for leading others during challenging times, your people need you to show them a positive future is on the horizon and help them believe the team can and will get there. You also have to be offering encouragement, guidance, care and compassion depending on individual and team needs.

How you build these kinds of actions into your workplace depends on your organization and it’s rhythms, structure, and environment as well as the nature of the challenges being faced. Admittedly, supporting remote workers can be more challenging from the sense that it’s more difficult to sense your team members’ states of mind or recognize changes when people are behind cameras and you can’t see or hear their small moments, movements, and sounds. Those nuances are less obvious with people working remotely and thus leaders have to be more intentional about asking, observing and listening.

If you have been practicing any other actions which have been helpful in your teams please share.

If you or your team is struggling and you need assistance, that’s what we are here for. Leaders need support as well.