For many of us, our jobs have been the stabilizing environment in our lives. When we step into our work space, we essentially know what to expect. Our coworkers are relatively the same day after day. Our manager continues to set the pace as our tasks remain relatively unchanged. Even the office space itself is static. However, recent events continue to add a whole other level of unexpected and unwelcome uncertainty into the mix. Uncertainty that has threatened to undermine our trust in our neighbors, the medical field, and our government. And these feelings can’t help but affect our work life.
Leaders’ role in a changing landscape
Leaders may want to take notice since conducting business as usual during challenging times without acknowledging the impact of what goes on and the potential impact on employees and their productivity can be detrimental. Being more aware of and being sensitive to and acknowledging how civil unrest, political division, and working from home affect the workforce can lead to increased trust, higher morale, and a stronger company culture. As important as it always has been to listen to employees when evaluating and/or defining company culture, during times of great strife, leaders need to be even more vigilant to what their workers say and how they behave.
Although both leaders and employees would benefit from creating an environment of open, honest communication together, leaders have a duty to take the lead; it’s not a top-down or bottom-up type of situation.
Stress in the workplace
Employees experiencing increased stress and anxiety are not likely to raise or discuss their apprehensions in the workplace for fear of negative repercussions. However, leaders can create opportunities for confidential, nonjudgmental conversations where they can openly ask their workers what’s going on and how they can help. Although if the company culture is inclusive and robust, employees hopefully already feel supported and know that these ongoing conversations are a safe place in which they can reveal concerns they may be having. In fact, a workplace with a healthy company culture is actually an optimal setting to disclose issues because non-judgmental communication structures have previously been put in place.
The signs of stress and anxiety can include something as seemingly minor as having frequent headaches or feeling overwhelmed or anxious. But a colleague who’s been keeping to themselves recently, or an employee who has started to arrive late to meetings or who misses them entirely, or someone who is absent more than they are in the office can also be signs of someone who is struggling with more stress than normal.
Thoughtful attention and concerted action
With so many people spending their waking life at work, and with so much happening in the world around us, it’s important to pay thoughtful attention to those around us. Taking concerted action to mitigate the stress levels is essential to ensuring the work place, at least, remains a stable place in employees’ lives. Knowing how leaders should appropriately and respectfully check in with their employees is also an integral piece of the puzzle.
Leadership can provide both managers and the workforce with training that helps them recognize the signs of increased stress and anxiety. Hosting or promoting seminars or workshops (there are numerous virtual webinars) that address depression and stress management techniques to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation goes a long way towards employees trusting leaders. They can also encourage team members to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.