How to cope with pandemic’s ‘catastrophic shift in emotional landscape of the workplace’

Covid-19 | Covid-19 Advice | Employment & Skills | Healthcare | How To | Surveys

UK workers are experiencing an ‘unprecedented’ level of anxiety over their job security and future prospects, according to new data – yet the majority have faith in their leaders’ ability to steer companies through the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly two thirds of employees questioned by employee engagement survey specialists Inpulse described their most common feelings about the pandemic as anxiety, stress or distraction, with fears over their individual job security the most common reason.

Prior to the outbreak, ‘anxious’, ‘stressed’ and ‘distracted’ were only used by 5%, 5% and 1% respectively of British workers to describe their professional state of mind when asked to pick two from a long list of states of mind.

Now, however, those numbers have risen to 28% being ‘anxious’, 22% ‘distracted’ and 11% ‘stressed’.

The flip side to this is that there has been a marked decrease in positivity, with feelings like ‘focus’ and ‘commitment’ declining significantly, and are now claimed by just 7% and 14% respectively.

On a more positive note, 76% of respondents said they have confidence in their business leaders to make the right decisions during these tough times, with 43% strongly agreeing and 33% agreeing.

This comes at a time when 82% of employees said coronavirus has already had an impact on company priorities, with 51% saying it’s had a major impact and 32% saying a minor impact.

Some 74% have already seen events cancelled.

Matt Stephens, CEO of Inpulse, said: “We have never seen these levels of anxiety and stress in ‘normal’ times, it is unprecedented and shows the impact COVID-19 has had on employees’ wellbeing.

“We typically see high levels of commitment and enthusiasm around employee jobs and their organisations.

“Sadly, people are now consumed by the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic – and it’s massively impacting their work. This is a catastrophic shift in the emotional landscape of the workplace, and it’s only happened in a matter of days.

“Through the survey, they’ve told us they are anxious about job security. One said, enlighteningly, that they are stressed about having to choose between being committed to their work or being safe.

“On top of this, some are consumed by their concerns, media updates and government announcements. Others are concerned by poor communications from their employer.

Matt Stephens of Inpart.
Matt Stephens of Inpart.

“It’s now possible for employers to pulse check employees’ emotional wellbeing so they track, measure and help any that are feeling emotional distress through these difficult days. Now is the time for businesses to act and show that they care, which they seem to be doing – we’ve been inundated by requests to understand this.”

Stephens said Inpulse is offering four key tips for employers in handling workers’ concerns during this tough period.

He said: “People respond to uncertain times in different ways. Some can’t focus, are distracted and overwhelmed, some go into survival mode while some excel in a new challenge. It’s important for leaders and managers to understand how their people are feeling, stay in regular communication, know how people will react and be able to combat and cater for different responses. This requires employers to be agile and put their people first to benefit the company; people will be more productive and engaged if they aren’t anxious, stressed or distracted.

“Clear, transparent communications from senior leaders discussing the short-term future of the business are vital. If the senior leaders don’t know the answers, it is better to be honest. Good communications reduce anxiety.

“Enable line managers to support their people emotionally by helping them manage their mindsets and identify who needs particular attention or may be struggling. This can help reduce stress. Many are not used to remote working, working in isolation or working with distractions at home.

“Providing short, focused objectives to their people and setting clear expectations help teams stay focused and avoid being distracted – regular, small soundbite communications are best to help people digest information clearly.”

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