Maintaining employees’ emotional well-being key during COVID-19

Gartner identifies six initiatives HR can undertake to help managers maintain employee performance and engagement during the COVID-19 outbreak
By: | March 26, 2020
Topics: News

Anxiety, frustration and burnout are just some of the emotions that employees are facing as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to disrupt their lives. When left unattended, these feelings can affect their productivity and engagement, leading to poor work quality, errors and eventually influencing an organisation’s ability to survive in these difficult times, warned Gartner.

“Most organisations have focused on scenario planning and necessary operational responses to ensure business continuity,” said Brain Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “However, these plans do not address, nor impact, employees’ ability to focus on their work.”

For starters, be alert in recognising signs of distress and be ready to facilitate regular conversations between managers and employees. HR should provide managers with guidance on how best to broach sensitive subjects arising from COVID-19, including alternative work models, job security and prospects, impact to staffing, and tension in the workplace.

When communicating, make sure the process is two-way. Communication with managers and peers provides employees with the information and perspective they need, while allowing them to express and process negative emotions and improve their feelings of control.

One of the top engagement drivers for employees is seeing their work contribute to company goals, said Gartner. Therefore, a direct link between individual performance and the achievement of business goals can boost employees’ confidence in the importance of their job even in a challenging business environment.

During periods of uncertainty, employee misconduct increases by as much as 33%, said Gartner. Apart from modeling the right behaviours, managers should encourage staff to call out unethical behaviours, and highlight the punitive measures for non-compliance.

If employee engagement is reduced during this period, managers need to redouble their recognition efforts. Effective recognition not only motivates the recipient but can serve as a strong signal to other employees of behaviours they should emulate.

Lastly, Gartner believes that it is during times of change and disruption that innovation and risk-taking become even more important for employee engagement and organisational success. Even when organisations face constraints on new investments, managers can emphasise the need and provide opportunities for incremental innovation or process improvements.