Whether it’s an abrupt reversal of fortune, a natural disaster or a national emergency, your business is likely to face some kind of crisis during its existence. Your decisions and actions during this time matter. They will not only have a profound impact on your employees’ morale, but will affect your company’s reputation for years to come.
Here are five steps you can take to lift morale and usher your workers through a period of great stress.
1. Keep lines of communication open
Honest and transparent communication is critical during a crisis. It’s important to address the situation with your staff from the start, even if you haven’t yet fleshed out a plan and there are many unanswerable questions. Discussing the problem upfront shows the workforce that executives, managers and employees are all in the same boat, and all will pull together to get through the crisis with as little disruption as possible to productivity and personal lives.
Hold meetings — virtual ones if necessary — to discuss your plans as the crisis evolves and encourage questions and dialog. An online forum dedicated to crisis management gives employees a chance to raise concerns and offer suggestions. It can also dispel the false rumors that often circulate during times of distress.
2. Include employee morale in your crisis plan
When top executives meet to establish a plan for dealing with the crisis, they need to discuss more than finances, supply chain, physical resources and other bottom-line parameters. The plan should also include helping employees deal with the crisis, both at work and at home.
Establish procedures, a budget and a timeline to meet employee needs, whether that means purchasing technology to enable remote work, helping affected workers find short-term housing, offering extra leave to those with special needs, or whatever the situation calls for.
3. Create a resource list for employees
Some workers may need help with childcare, elder care, transportation, or other crisis-related services. Designate someone at your company to manage employee crisis resources. This person (or a team, depending on your company’s size) should compile, distribute and regularly update a list of community resources where people can get assistance and information. Reliable information can hard to come by during a crisis, and your company can serve as a beacon of light.
4. Be flexible and empathetic
No one knows exactly how a crisis will play out or how long it will last. This is no time to enforce rigid procedures governing absence, tardiness or dress codes. You need to be flexible and understanding toward employees who are dealing with personal and work-related upheavals.
Listening to employee’s problems and helping to the degree that you can will go a long way to establish good will and retention down the road. Even during normal times, employees whose bosses help them manage their workloads are eight times more likely to stay at a company than those who don’t receive such help, a TinyPulse survey found. Those who get help during a crisis are bound to be doubly grateful.
5. Give workers an emotional break
Everyone needs spirit-restoring breaks during a crisis, but not everyone feels comfortable admitting to the need, particularly at work. Acknowledging stress empowers employees to do something about it. In a crisis, alleviating the feeling of helplessness is half the battle.
A message from top management encouraging workers to take a brief walk outdoors, meditate or spend a few quiet moments alone in a conference room each day will give workers permission to manage their emotional health during the crisis. Remind them that employee assistance plans and any other means of support your company has are there for them anytime, and list relevant contact information in your message.
Managing a crisis is never easy, but giving your staff the physical and emotional support they need will help them be more resilient. Collectively, better morale will help your company weather the storm. And after it passes, employees will remember your good will for years to come.
Want more information on managing remote employees? See these articles:
Managing fear and uncertainty
How to have difficult conversations remotely
How to manage remote employees
Stress test: Have you checked your team?
See more articles on setting strategy and managing talent in our COVID-19 resource center