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How can we, as leaders, help our employees feel safe in times of uncertainty?

Posted-on May 2020 By James Ward

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Often when things take an unexpected turn, it’s natural for people to feel anxious, scared and angry at the situation they’re in. This can be the case for anyone - whether you’re working from home and trying to homeschool your children, trying to work in unusual situations, are furloughed and uncertain about your future, or facing unemployment.

We’ve put together 5 top tips to help your colleagues feel more secure and settled during this time. Above all, remember #KindnessMatters.

1.Over communicate with your team

We believe there’s no such thing as too much talking. If it can’t be face to face, take time to call a colleague on the phone or via video link to ask how they are. But remember, it's not just about talking, it’s about listening too. Taking extra time to chat enables a closer relationship and more honesty in a workplace, helping to build self-esteem and give confidence at a time when many things are out of our control. Above all, being listened to will make your team feel like they're valued and that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.

2.Be honest and open

For a leader, being open and honest with your feelings in front of your team can create a sense of camaraderie and reduce the perceived gap between you and your team members. Ask your team about more than just their work and tell them about your own situation. Take time to ask open ended questions about their home, hobbies and family which they feel they can answer honestly without judgement. Showing you have a vulnerable side too brings trust and a mutual respect and understanding within your team.

3.Set meetings with no agenda

Invite people to talk openly, with no time limits and no set agenda to encourage open conversations. Doing this enables people to feel trusted, respected and enables everyone to share ideas and opinions about their workplace and their individual challenges. In the workspace it’s easy to spot if someone is struggling or experiencing burnout, but not so easy when working remotely, so ensure this is managed carefully.

4.Offer support

Make sure your colleagues know they have your full support whenever they need it. Supporting people through times of difficulty, both personally and professionally can make a huge difference in the workplace. It’s all too easy to say the right words and pay lip service to your team, but a true leader follows through on their actions and never fails to commit to a promise. If a colleague needs unexpected time off during a crisis, tell them that’s ok and find a solution that works for both you and them. Nothing breaks morale quicker within a team than someone who opens up and then feels they’re not taken seriously.

5.Promote healthy activity and breaks

It’s natural for business owners to worry about their staff in times of stress, and the Covid-19 pandemic is a time where we all want to put people’s mental health and wellbeing first. Encourage staff to adapt their working day and hours, especially if they’re juggling childcare and ensure everyone takes holiday. Just because we’re at home, doesn’t mean holidays should be put on the back burner. Finally, help your staff to help themselves. It can be hard to know when to switch off when you’re working at home, so encourage them to work in a different room to the one they live in, go for extra-long walks in the afternoon, or take more time to cook their favourite food over lunch.

For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness campaign or for advice and help, visit: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/And remember #KindnessMatters.