Working remotely and then returning to the office can cause anxiety and uncertainty for your team. Psychologist and iHR Australia Facilitator, Steven Booker, has some tips for leaders to help you manage this issue.
Tips to deal with employee anxiety caused by uncertainty
Provide structure and reassurance
Leaders can help reduce anxiety for their employees by providing re-assurance, structure, support, and predictability.
- Encourage employees to focus on what they can control and to not worry about things that are out of their control
- Help them to feel confident and capable by setting and achieving simple, realistic goals;
- Assist them to feel secure and stable by having a routine and rhythm to their work
A leader’s actions and attitudes “trickle down” to their team, who often observe and mirror them. If you display honesty and calmness, you’ll encourage your team to do the same. You can’t tell people how they should manage their stress or emotions, and you can’t manage their feelings for them. But, what you can do is offer an example for others to follow.
Harness your emotional intelligence
Leaders with high EQ recognise and acknowledge their emotions, but aren’t driven by them. For example, they may admit to being uncertain or concerned, but then articulate a plan for addressing this. Effective leaders acknowledge the stress and anxiety that they and employees may be feeling, but reassure and affirm their confidence in their teams.
Encourage employees to focus on what they can control in their work and home life.
Ask them which aspects of their job and daily home routine are completely or mostly under their control. Even if the answer is “better organising my home office” or “choosing what work to do this morning”, encourage them to focus on researching, thinking about and making decisions around these areas totally or mostly in their control.
Suggest they spend less time worrying / thinking about / watching things outside of their control
(e.g. news, social media, COVID stats). Help the employee review their current goals, and set small, practical and SMART (Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Responsible. Time bound) goals.
Creating a stable routine
A key technique for helping teams manage uncertainty is to create a stable structure, routine and rhythm in the team.
You can do this by:
- establishing/re-communicating a clear team identity, mission statement and set of norms
- sticking to consistent core working hours, which do not need to be 9 to 5, and let people have flexibility outside these
- holding regular meetings at the same time each week; sharing meeting agendas prior to the meeting; and starting & end meetings on time.
iHR Australia offers the training program Resilient Leadership in the Post-COVID Environment both On-Site and Virtually.