The COVID-19 crisis has shaken things up in many different ways for employees of small businesses. It’s important to acknowledge that your staff may need extra support during a time of uncertainty at work, as well as at home and within the global context. Here are some suggestions on how to strive for better mental health in the workplace and support your employees through tumultuous periods.
Due to the effects of COVID-19, some people are finding they have less work hours, and others have a greater workload. Some people are working from home, and some have children to care for or other caregiving responsibilities, too. Some are concerned for their health, or are in the middle of unexpectedly moving house. These new disruptions pose extra stressors that affect any small business workplace, from digital agencies to restaurants.
Lead with empathy
Empathy is the ability to ‘put yourself in the shoes’ of another person – seeing things, and even feeling things, from their perspective. It’s important to understand how varying situations can affect your team by listening to your staff members.
When we practice leading with empathy, we are able to make business decisions and operate in a day-to-day way that prioritises the human element. Empathy is integral to good team work, productivity and staff engagement, leading to better retention at a time when many are reconsidering their work situation.
You can also encourage staff to stay connected with each other by implementing activities like Friday get-togethers, if you’re able to gather in person. If working remotely, personal check-ins using collaboration tools with private messaging, like Slack for example, can be a connector that combats loneliness.
Offer support where needed
Ensure your workplace is compliant with COVID-19 safety rules (Covid Safe). Even if there haven’t been cases in your city or state for weeks, prioritise the health and safety of your staff and customers by keeping up to date with the public health orders and COVIDSafe plans in your state or territory.
Introducing flexibility into your workplace by leveraging hours, locations or scheduling where possible, can go a long way in ensuring the wellbeing and focus of your staff. This might look like working from home for one person, or 4 x 10 hour days with Fridays off for another, depending on the type of business you run.
Time to rest
As well as for the health and safety of other staff, and healing, consider leave as a healthy component of productivity. Fostering a culture where people take preventative measures for their health benefits everyone, including your business.
Mental health support
More people have been seeking mental health support since COVID-19. Building awareness about mental health in the workplace, how to stay on top of it and where to seek help, as well as having an ‘open door policy’ on discussing issues, will help your staff manage their mental health.
Consistent and clear communication
During times of uncertainty, consistent and clear communication maintains trust and a stable working environment for your staff. Regular company updates and team meetings are a way to do this.
Consider weekly meetings on quickly-shifting business strategy and tactics. An approach called ‘open book management’ is a method of regularly sharing a business’ position with staff members to increase staff engagement. This could look like sharing numbers, like weekly revenue, and even running workshops to encourage agile thinking and getting staff feedback.
You could also opt for daily check-ins, as appropriate to the size of your business and its teams, to ensure staff know each others’ schedules and changing needs. Strike a careful balance to focused work time – overbooking meetings and Zoom calls can be exhausting!
With constantly changing availability of staff, use the Square Team Management software solution, which allows employees to view and adjust their schedules and see timecards and hours worked. It also reduces confusion and unnecessary back-and-forth communication about paychecks and rostering.
Recognise good work
When things are uncertain, offering positive feedback is a way to give people a sense of purpose and keep staff motivated and engaged.
Personally praising staff for their work in a timely way also reinforces behaviour that benefits your business. You can also more formally reward staff for their good work and with things like gift cards presented at monthly staff events.
Celebrating business success together, with staff parties for instance (provided they’re within COVID Safe guidelines for your location), is a way to build morale and acknowledge the impact of strong teamwork.
There’s no doubt that small business uncertainty can negatively impact a business and its employees. But there are many preventative measures you can take to avoid issues around the mental health of staff, disengagement and absenteeism – indeed, these very measures may strengthen your teams and productivity in the short and long term.