In the last article, we briefly understood what anxiety and panic attacks are and how to react to them whenever they occur, specifically while in a workplace setting. In this article, we will be looking at aspects of how a leader can be helpful in this situation when their employee or colleague is affected by such situations. Leaders do not necessarily have to be an employer, but can be anyone within an organization who is able to take a stand and help make a change - it can be you too.
While these occurrences may not be as common in the past, we cannot say the same about today, especially with us having to face a pandemic that no one saw coming. Many businesses are giving the green light for employees to return back to their workplace instead of working from home and employers are working hard to create safe and a healthy working environment, keeping in mind several factors to help comply with the new normal. While employers are most definitely focusing on logistical as well as operational planning, it is not just the physical well-being of employees that needs attention, but their emotional and psychological health is equally important although it is indeed a topic less discussed.
An article by Harvard Business Review highlights this matter on their Crisis Management section with not just one tip, but five, as listed below:
1. Make employees’ well-being your top priority: Oftentimes, employees want assurance and reassurance that the companies that they are in, put employees first whenever possible, especially during tough times. Companies although are working extremely hard to get back on their feet during this time must continue demonstrating a commitment to their values and employees during the re-entry phase.
2. Share accurate, timely, and transparent information: A key to managing employees’ anxiety is to ensure that there is a constant stream of communication from top to bottom management as it is known that most individuals experience anxiety because they fear the unknown.
3. Take swift action to implement recommended public health measures: Most individuals feel much safer when they know that their surrounding is not only well protected but also clean. Employees should be kept informed on how these measures are being taken, what the timeline is like, and how these measures are being enforced.
4. Train leaders, managers, and colleagues on how to support employees: Leaders, managers, and colleagues play a crucial role in ensuring a smooth return to the workplace. One way that managers can help is by modeling the needed behaviors and sharing them with their team to support the new ways of working. Anxiety can be further reduced when employees engage with their colleagues through informal and formal support networks. All employees can initiate forums for reconnecting with one another with empathy and compassion as they adapt to their new normal.
5. Offer flexibility: As workplaces reopen, employers may expect pressure to maintain working flexibility, particularly from team members caring for children or sick loved ones. Employers will most definitely be able to reduce anxiety drastically if these topics are discussed and aligned with the team members and understanding how to handle these issues moving forward.
It is important to always remember that there is no shortage of stress at work. For individuals dealing with anxiety, even the smallest tasks may be a daily struggle and while you may think that no one around you may be experiencing anxieties or panic attacks, we urge you to think again. A good practice would be to do your best to understand the disorder and help create an environment that fosters communication, collaboration, and trust. Wrike provides a few simple but important points on how everyone can do so:
· Be Mindful
Have an open dialogue and discuss goals and limits with your teammates. Understand what they are looking to accomplish and how you can work with them to accomplish this together while keeping organizational goals in mind
· Be Encouraging
Encourage transparency and openness, so when something is really bothering them or their anxiety intensifies, they will not be afraid to reach out to you
· Eliminate Stigma
Without being pushy, set the expectation to have open communication and understanding. Keep in mind that it is important to have personal and one on one discussions with your teammates for them to voice out and still feel safe
· Do your research
Take time to observe your team and understand that everyone handles things differently, that way it will help you gauge their limits and play to their strengths while they focus on curbing their weaknesses
There is a huge difference between experiencing and being diagnosed with anxiety and having panic attacks. As a leader, it is completely up to you to set the precedent for an open and honest relationship that encourages growth and success, regardless of the disorder. Although these subjects can be scary, addressing them at the right time would prevent so much of negativity from happening, which ultimately would result in employees being able to bring their ‘full selves’ to work without fear of being penalized or judged for their actions.