COVID-19: How to support your people through a personal crisis

Two HR leaders offer up some advice on how to get your team through the pandemic

COVID-19: How to support your people through a personal crisis

HR has been at the forefront of every organisation’s COVID-19 response, meaning many HR professionals are facing some of the biggest workforce challenges in their career.

In particular, the pandemic has left HR leaders with the tough task of guiding and reassuring teams wherever possible. For many organisations, this has involved focusing on mental health, promoting learning and development programs, and regular one-on-one sessions.

To promote a better connection with teams and optimal employee mental health, it’s crucial to first focus on self-awareness, according to Marlene Tanner, head of development, human resources, ANZ, AbbVie.

READ MORE: COVID-19: My employee refuses to come into work – now what?

Tanner explained that self-awareness is the foundational skill for developing resilience, resulting in improved team dynamics.

“Whether you are thinking about how to build trust in the team or even the general wellbeing of the team, you need to notice the red flags early on,” said Tanner.

“How much sleep am I getting? How fatigued am I? Am I starting to show irritability in meetings?

“These are the things that through awareness you can think about what might have changed and this will assist in building your resiliency and keep your mental health at a higher level.”

READ MORE: ‘I truly believe HR’s moment is now’: Rogers CHRO

Tanner added that it’s also important to understand emotional triggers.

“If you are falling down that slippery slope, but continually ask for feedback through that process, then some of these red flags may not be obvious.”

If that’s the case, Tanner advises that a close colleague or friend take you aside and relay their concerns privately.

Another aspect of supporting teams revolves around one-on-one sessions.

This enables leaders, teammates, and peers to connect and communicate, according to Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at Employment Hero. During COVID-19, Hattingh said the real emphasis has been on connection, and using these one-on-ones to develop employee support structures fit for ‘the new normal.’

She told HRD that effective one-on-ones should leave employees feeling heard, safe, and empowered. This can be achieved by beginning with open-ended questions such as ‘how are you feeling’, and then really listening to your employee.

“Watch out for any roadblocks such as low productivity or fatigue, as it’s not so easy to walk over to someone and ask how they’re feeling in a remote setting,” said Hattingh.

“The ‘how are you feeling?’ question asked in the right way and listened to, creates psychological safety for your employee to say that perhaps they are not doing well.

“This may be personal, or it may be roadblocks they are getting at work. If personal, encouraging them to reach out to an Employee Assistance Program or many of the amazing services we are fortunate to have, such as Beyond Blue, is helpful. C

“Coaching them through how to overcome roadblocks is vital.”

Hattingh also recommends inserting yourself where needed to get projects moving. As a leader during this time, it is vital to be fully present during your weekly 1:1 and make sure you are not distracted.

“One-on-ones also require leaders to be the facilitator of solutions - which can be challenging,” said Hattingh.

“It’s important to create a space of trust through respect; being unconditionally on the employee’s side; and showing vulnerability by talking about your own challenges or experience.”

When it comes to career development, Hattingh said that using a clear goal-setting structure like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can help keep you, and your employee aligned to a timeline and big-picture outcome, despite any COVID-related turbulence along the way.

Offer some flexibility around the steppingstones to achieve that overarching objective, as some employees will require slightly adjusted performance metrics in light of the current crisis, advised Hattingh.

“HR leaders can also support their team through flexible working structures. If you have employees juggling parenting, care or housemates, give them the space to complete their work in the hours that best suit them,” she said.

“The easiest way to keep track of this is by encouraging transparent calendar blocking; that way, you know what your employees are up to and vice versa, removing any stigma around flexible work routines.”

Recent articles & video

Visa relaxation to be announced in budget

250,000 staff told to go back to office

Domestic violence: What are employers’ responsibilities?

HR manager claims she was fired over COVID-19 guidance

Most Read Articles

How to lift employee spirits during COVID-19

Fun Friday: Top 10 worst interview questions

250,000 staff told to go back to office