Business Insights   

Keeping calm and carrying on: 5 ways to help employees handle stress during COVID-19


No matter the size of your business, communicating openly with your employees is the best way to help them continue working through the coronavirus pandemic or prepare them to resume working when the crisis ends. Good communications can also help alleviate fears among your workers during this difficult time. Even just acknowledging the stress that every employee is facing professionally and personally is a good place to start.

Headshot of Bob Patience.

Bob Patience
VP, Head of New York Life Business Solutions

The type of communications process you establish during this crisis depends on how many employees you have and whether they are working at home or at your business. The most important thing, as their leader, is to communicate frequently and transparently. Whether it's you or someone you designate, there should be a centralized source of information for your company.

If you have more than 100 employees, a daily or every-other-day email of support and news can keep them informed and hopefully less anxious. If your workforce is smaller, consider reaching out individually or to small groups through emails, video conferences, and phone calls.

Here are five best practices for internal communications during a crisis:

1. Address employee concerns

If your employees are working from home, you may want to ask for feedback on the experience and see what you can do to help them adjust. According to the 2019 State of Remote Report by buffer.com, the top three struggles for remote workers were unplugging after work, loneliness, and collaborating or communication.1 You can help address such issues by setting expectations for work hours, arranging virtual happy hours, and connecting employees with the technology they need to collaborate remotely.

2. Offer flexibility

Many people face the challenge of balancing full-time work from responsibilities with managing childcare and remote learning. You can help relieve this stress by encouraging flex hours and setting realistic expectations for productivity. Ensure your employees know you understand the issues with their new work environment, and suggest that they take breaks and schedule time with their families.1 2

3. Provide regular updates

Whether your employees work at their usual site or at home, you can provide guidance from your state and local government about the impact of the virus on your community, as well as guidelines for limiting the spread. Some of the guidelines may affect your employees individually and some may affect your business; either way, you can be the leader that keeps them informed.2 Business updates can also make employees feel more connected, which can provide comfort.

4. Support wellness measures

Check in regularly with your employees to see if they need additional support. Some companies are encouraging their employees to take meditation breaks and are providing staff with access to meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, or Aura. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety and may have a variety of other positive health impacts. You can offer to pay for a meditation app, provide time and permission for a meditation break, or recommend remote exercise options to help your employees manage their emotional and physical response to this unprecedented crisis.3

5. Adjust your team building approach

Just because your workers are physically distant doesn't mean you can't continue to strengthen their relationships. The team huddle may not be an option, but you can connect via video conferencing to socialize and brainstorm. You may want to build morale by supporting your community with food donations, remote tutoring, or another activity that can benefit others.

When you provide tools and support to your employees to help them cope with the coronavirus crisis, you're helping to foster a community of caring coworkers who will be fully engaged and ready to strengthen your business as the economic recovery begins.


About the author

Bob Patience

Bob Patience is Vice President of Business Solutions at New York Life.  Bob oversees our employee benefits business, including our payroll deducted individual life products and our group life and disability offerings.  In Bob’s four years with New York Life, we launched our group offerings, re-priced and redesigned our individual products and re-positioned the business to support our agents by focusing on the financial needs of small businesses, their owners and their employees.  In addition to his oversight of Business Solutions, Bob is also leading a number of work streams related to NYL’s pending acquisition of Cigna Group Insurance.  Before coming to New York Life, Bob spent 30 years with Prudential, where he held a variety of product, underwriting, segment head, and technology leadership positions.  Immediately before coming to NY Life, he was the P&L owner of Prudential’s $3 billion block of group life and voluntary benefits business.  Bob has a BA from Colby College in Maine and a Masters in Business Administration from New Jersey’s Montclair State University.

Sources:

1Rita Zeidner, Coronavirus Makes Work from Home the New Normal", SHRM, March 21, 2020
https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/all-things-work/pages/remote-work-has-become-the-new-normal.aspx

2Jamie Johnson, Five Ways to Calm Coronavirus Fears Among Your Employees," US Chamber of Commerce, March 17, 2020
https://www.uschamber.com/co/run/human-resources/keeping-employees-calm-during-coronavirus-pandemic

3Karen J. Bannan, Meditation Offerings Can Help Employees in Difficult Times,"
SHRM, April 9, 2020
https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Meditation-Offerings-Can-Help-Employees-in-Difficult-Times.aspx

This material is provided for informational purposes only. The information is current as of the date of publication and is subject to change without notice. New York Life Insurance Company, its agents and employees may not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Individuals should consult their own professional advisors before implementing any planning strategies. © 2020 New York Life Insurance Company. All rights reserved.