The outbreak of COVID-19 is rocking the business world in many ways. From reactions in stock markets, and governments, to education and work. It is no surprise that this growing pandemic is inspiring stress and panic across the board. This stress placed on each person can begin to heavily affect performances at work in ways that we may have never seen before.

With the rise of the virus, mass media coverage and preventative actions taking place around us, stress and worry become engraved in our everyday lives, and basic tasks suddenly feel harder than before. People are worried at all levels, thinking about themselves, and their own health in general, but also being concerned with the people they come in contact with every day. How can we do our job effectively when our employees are worried about their children? Or elderly family and spouses whose jobs put them on the front line of this pandemic, or simply worried about keeping themselves healthy. How can we support each other in such a moment of mass panic and confusion? 

Stress is something we are all too familiar with within the workforce. We experience stress when we believe that the demands on us are greater than our ability or perceived ability to deal with and meet these demands. We also know that stress can be a good thing because it helps us get things done. It ignites our resourcefulness and gives us opportunities to grow and learn. But, while stress can be a good thing, the stress we feel from external matters to our work can begin to weigh on our performances, especially when it is unrelenting and prolonged. 

So, what do we do? How do we move forward?

HR professionals and management play key and essential roles in helping to manage and relieve stress and pressure. They need to plan for the added worry we are seeing in the wake of COVID-19, and how to best support their employees. Offices, schools and daycare closures create added stress as everyone has to navigate what their lives look like, and how will they function at this time. 

How can HR professionals or managers ease COVID-19 anxieties in the office? 

HR professionals and managers can help by first understanding that stress affects everyone differently. The impact of pandemics and emergencies emotionally varies from person to person. Being aware of this, and aware of the impact that stress has on performance. Also, they should be aware of the ways social media and constant media coverage can induce stress through repeated images and information. The mass spreading of online and viral news has a link to heighten stress and information overload that people are facing. HR and management can also help by listening to the concerns around them and aiding in reframing mindsets surrounding COVID-19 and the workforce.   

It also helps to recognize hard work in the office! Times are hard right now and that little bit of support goes a long way. Be understanding and prepared for moments of concern and realize that employees are not only feeling the stress surrounding deadlines and demands in the office, but also the demands and concerns they feel at home. Everyone is also feeling the stress and concern of their family and friends in times like this. Feeling the stress of children who are unaware or unable to grasp what is happening around them, or figuring out what to do in the face of school and daycare closures. Or concern over elderly family, those who are immunocompromised or are working on the front-lines of the virus. 

What are some practical tips dealing with stress in the wake of COVID-19? How can businesses take care of employees during this time?

Good news, in the wake of stress, many of us already have learned strategies to help deal with the stress and aid in performances at work. The problem at this time is maintaining a level head and being able to recall some of these strategies to apply not only to their work performances but also to their daily lives. Some things to remember are:

Take care of yourself.

Of course, we have all heard it so many times but wash your hands! Also, take time to check in with yourself physically and mentally. Mental clarity can have a large effect on physical wellbeing. Taking time and measures to decompress can help your response to moments of high stress and concern. Learn key emotional management strategies in our on-demand course.

Don’t try to be better than your best.

There’s no need to try and be a hero! Understand that you may not be performing at your full capacity at this time, but do the best you can at this time!

Focus on what you can control.

COVID-19, reactions and precautionary measures are out of our control, and focusing on them can increase stress levels.

Keep learning.

While it may be difficult to prioritize self-development at a time like this, your ability to manage rapid change is directly linked to staying healthy and productive.

About the author

Alyshia McCabe, writer and student. Alyshia is a fourth year English Literature honors student at Bishop’s University. Coming off an internship at METAL magazine in Barcelona, Spain, Alyshia enjoys writing while she finishes up her studies.