Do you know how COVID-19 is affecting your employees’ mental, emotional and relational health—or your own for that matter? What can you do as an employer who never aspires to become a counselor? Simply show yourself as a
caring person. Know that any change—even good change— brings a level of stress and our entire country, home and work-lives are changing globally. Predict the difficulties of stress on folks’ emotional well-being and share resources
with them. Your EAP can supply those or use the information below. Give them lists of things to watch for in themselves and each other. People show stress in different ways, but usually in one of these major areas: lack of concentration, withdrawal from others, self-doubt, frequent errors, forgetting things, becoming easily irritated or even in conflict with others, frequent somatic complaints: headaches, stomach ache, fatigue, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. Employers see the latter as a lack of previous investment in or passion for work…which indicates either your employer or you are already in a state of exhaustion or burnout, which is dangerous to your physical health and immunity as well.
Predict these things “as possibilities if we don’t take care of ourselves as we should during this time.” Normalize “the
stress we are all experiencing with kids at home, finding ourselves trying to help them with school and trying to do our
jobs, all the while wondering what is going to happen in the future.” Encourage them that “We need to keep an eye on ourselves and each other. Can all of us agree to stay open to any coworker letting us know if we seem stressed and may need to change some things or get some support? That includes me and all the leadership at our company if you see it in
us.” As you normalize this practice, people are more willing to hear when interventions become necessary and act on the feedback. Let employees know that as a leader, you are just as susceptible; maybe even more so to stressors of this time, with concern for the same things they are concerned with at home, and concern for the whole organization and each of them as well. Show yourself as a model for openness to input and acting on it, just as you want your employees to remain open to your feedback to them. They will gain some degree of security knowing you are taking care of yourself in order to take care of the organization and them as your employees. When you hold meetings, take some time to go around and find out the following. You hand out the questions so people can get ready when their turn comes. Give only 3-5 minutes each so it is concise and doesn’t become a therapy group.

1) What are the most difficult aspects of this crisis for you, both professionally and personally?
2) What is your primary stress signal?
3) How do you prefer that coworkers or leaders support you if we see this stress signal in you? People like different things and some attempts at support can trigger more stress if we step on each other’s toes. Examples of support are:
• I like to talk about it. I usually like to go to lunch or spend time with a friend, so remind me to video conference, even though we can’t get together.
• I like someone to make me aware, but then trust me to take care of myself and not ask me how I’m doing all the time.
• Encourage me to exercise, that always relieves my stress.
• Pray with me. Or, don’t pray with me but pray for me. Or, it irritates me if people say they are praying because I don’t buy into that…
• I usually like to have a hug, but since we can’t do that, encourage me to go hug my spouse, my child or my dog…
• Encourage me to _ (enjoy my hobby, take a walk, step away from work, take a nap…)

Finally, let them know what actions you are taking to assure their income, whether or not they come through. It gives
them security to know you are trying (PPP or EIDL SBA Loans, etc.) If you as a leader can put this in place, you will find it goes a long way in setting the stage for a supportive work culture in the future. This practice of emotional, mental and relational well-being will continue in your workplace, with much less chance of work stressors escalating to the point of dissension or conflict. If you need a debrief group at your workplace to handle stress—especially for those essential employees, call your EAP to set it up via TeleHealth or, if you don’t have an EAP, call Innovative Alternatives, Inc. in the Bay Area at 713-222-2525. Most of all, take care!