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6 tips to reduce employee anxiety about COVID-19

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In Convenience Store News Canada‘s recent online survey asking operators “How is the coronavirus affecting your business?” many wrote in with concerns about how to keep employees safe and healthy, not just physically, but mentally.

We reached out to the Canadian Mental Health Association for advice and they shared this.

With coronavirus (COVID-19) now officially being called a pandemic by the World Health Organization, public fear and anxiety are on the rise. Your employees may be experiencing a high degree of uncertainty, worry and stress about the health and safety of their loved ones, and how this pandemic may disrupt their work and personal lives. 

While employers are preparing responses to safeguard their business operations and protect the physical health of their employees during this crisis, it’s important to consider everyone’s psychological health and safety, too. 

In order to support the psychological health and safety of your employees, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) recommends employers consider the following six tips:  

  1. Have a plan. Let employees know that you are thinking and looking ahead, that you will stay well-informed and that you can answer the questions they already have: What if I get sick? How do I take time off work? What if my family member contracts the virus? You may want to compile frequently asked questions and direct employees to them often.
  2. Communicate, share and be open. Worry and fear grow in the absence of up-to-date information. Let your employees know that they can expect regular updates from you. Communicate even if the situation remains unchanged.
  3. Empathize. Share that you know it’s stressful. Recognize that it’s okay to be anxious. Remind your employees of resources (EAP) that are available for those who are experiencing stress.
  4. Reassure—as best you can. You can refer to reports indicating that most people who become infected with the virus will recover.
  5. Understand. Recognize when stress has become unmanageable for individual employees. Stress can lead to anxiety and even panic. Some employees may need mental health days and medical intervention in order to cope. Encourage employees to practice self-care activities on-the-job and reassure them that it’s ok to take steps to manage stress, such as relaxation exercises, listening to relaxing music or taking regular breaks. 
  6. Recognize this is not quite ‘business as usual.’ Know that work will likely be impacted—work will slow down (or get busier). Reassure staff that expectations will shift accordingly, and that’s ok. We will get through this! 

Additional resources for employers: 

COVID-19: Practical workforce strategies that put your people first

How to stay emotionally healthy during the coronavirus outbreak