Supervisors: Tips and Resources (COVID-19)

May 2020
Supportive practices for supervisors
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has created concerns for many employees and teams. Research shows that a supportive leader can have a significant positive impact on the health and productivity of employees, especially during times of stress and uncertainty.

Here are a few simple practices that are most influential in reducing job stress, and may be helpful as teams navigate the corona-virus situation.

A supportive supervisor:
Is available to answer questions and listen to concerns – has an open-door policy, acknowledges concerns, is respectful and empathetic

Shares information – keeps employees “in the loop,” lets employees know about information that affects them

Acknowledges challenges and asks for input – involves employees as soon as possible in contingency plan discussions and development

Provides clear communication – identifies current priorities, communicates expectations, keeps the group focused

Is aware of relevant resources and how to direct employees to them – knows when to refer employees to Human Resources, Occupational Health, EAP, etc.

Provides positive feedback – acknowledges accomplishments during challenging times, recognizes individuals for personal achievements, remains optimistic

Warning signs of a troubled employee
Current concerns about the corona-virus outbreak may cause employees to feel anxious or uncertain. This anxiety may interfere with an employee’s performance and ability to be effective in their role. Recognizing early indicators of distress is an essential skill for leaders so they can address these concerns and direct employees to appropriate resources.

Here are some warning signs of potential distress:
• Decreased or inconsistent productivity
• A change in tone of voice – slurred speech, struggling for words, etc.
• Increased errors, diminished or inconsistent quality, accidents
• Strained relationships with coworkers
• Frequently expressing fears of becoming ill
• Negativity or angry outbursts
• Overly sensitive and/or emotional reactions
• Decreased interest in work
• Apparent difficulty concentrating, thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, learning or remembering
• Frequent references to problems outside of work

Tips for having a conversation with an anxious employee
The recent COVID-19 outbreak has created concerns for many employees and teams. Anxious employees may express some of their concerns to their leaders. Here are some tips for addressing employee concerns associated with the COVID-19 outbreak:

Listen – pay attention to the employee’s concerns and resist the urge to quickly offer a solution
Be present – resolve to give the employee your exclusive focus while you talk
Acknowledge – express empathy and acknowledge their concerns
Don’t get rattled – anxious or distressed employees may express strong emotion; let them express themselves appropriately while keeping yourself calm
Ask how you can help – they might just want to vent but give them a chance to express a need
Offer assistance – if appropriate direct them to resources or information that may be helpful to them (Human Resources, Occupational Health, EAP, etc.)
Follow up – check back with them at a later date to see how they’re doing
Staying Resilient during COVID-19
Tips for Leaders
The current COVID-19 crisis is different from anything that most of us has ever experienced and leaders are finding themselves challenged as never before to remain effective in their roles. The well-being of our employees is always a priority, but effective leadership requires making your own well-being a priority as well. Here are some things leaders can do to care for themselves and maintain (or enhance) their leadership effectiveness:

1. Avoid burnout – during a crisis all hands are on deck but it’s easy for leaders to think that they always need to be at the center of everything. However, if you don’t take time for recovery and rest your performance will suffer and so will your leadership skills. Model some healthy boundaries regarding responding to emails, taking days off, etc. – this will benefit both you and your organization.

2. Be kind to your brain – during times of high stress our bodies produce adrenaline to provide us with the cognitive focus we need. Over time however, the impact of that initial burst of adrenaline can fade and we can find that our ability to make good decisions can deteriorate. If we find that our judgment is cloudy or we struggle with memory or recall this is often a sign that we need to give our brains a break by doing some deep breathing, listening to calming music or doing something creative.

3. Delegate – times of crisis create unique opportunities for individuals to step up and contribute in new ways. Allowing individuals in your organization to assume higher levels of responsibility than they had previously gives them an opportunity to develop, fosters diversity, and takes some things off your plate as the leader.

4. Be real – be honest with yourself about how you’re doing. Don’t ignore the signs that stress or anxiety might be getting to you. If you can’t sleep at night, have a short fuse or find yourself eating or drinking too much get some help. A trusted mentor, friend, clergy person, therapist or EAP counselor can help you identify tools and resources which might be helpful.

Healthy leaders are essential if an organization is to successfully navigate the COVID crisis. HDC Employee Assistance Program (EAP) professionals are available to consult with leaders about how to effectively support their organizations while also taking good care of themselves.
For confidential assistance please contact Human Development Company:
Copyright © 2020 Human Development Company, All rights reserved.

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