Psychologists estimate that 32% of us experience anxiety on a normal basis, long before we entered this global health crisis. Today it would be reasonable that we ALL are experiencing some form of anxiety. The world is filled with uncertainty and we perceive a threat to our health and financial stability.
This is a normal human reaction, there is nothing irrational or unreasonable about having a level of unease during this time - for any of us. Unfortunately if we contribute the level, or prolong the length, of anxiety we will see the development of chronic symptoms and potentially a rise in mental health disorders altogether.
According to the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) employee absenteeism in Canada, due to mental health issues, costs our economy approximately $51 billion annually. Ponder for a moment what percentage of that was a loss from your dealership in past and what it could amount to in future if mental health issues are exacerbated by this pandemic.
From a safety perspective, we need our staff to have the ability to think clearly and focus on the tasks at hand. Distracted and nervous employees are known to have higher incident rates.
We know our dealers are committed to providing the safest and healthiest environment within their control, and there are steps we can all take to reduce the risk of incidents due to mental health.
Here are 6 tips for easing excess anxiety in your staff during the pandemic:
1. Have a plan
Demonstrating you are strategic, thoughtful and are embracing leadership will provide a sense of security.
Have you completed a Hazard Assessment for the essential operations of your business during the pandemic?
Do you have human resources staff or advisors to assist with the employment repercussions?
What training resources and schedules are you putting in place for employees still in service?
What is your communication plan for staff that is in temporary lay off?
2. Communicate Openly
Worry and fear grow with uncertainty and in absence of information. Create a dealership FAQ's with the most recurring and common questions you receive from your employees and post where it is conspicuous. Update regularly, even if you are saying "no changes today".
3. Reassure As You Can
Validate their feelings of anxiety, assuring them this is a natural human reaction. Provide direction to resources for employees such as your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and ask what they need or would like to reduce their stress. If you are in a position to help - such as providing additional training or personal protective equipment - then do so.
5. Adjust the Environment
Encourage self-care, taking breaks, allow for frequent hand washing and provide an open door policy for any concerns. Proactively monitor the behaviour of staff for signs of unmanageable stress or anxiety and intervene if necessary - use Step 4 and communicate with empathy to that employee.
6. Recognize this is Unusual
There won't be a cookie cutter response to many of the situations you will face in the near future. You may have to resort to unusual measures such as work sharing programs, reduced hours, increasing mental health resources and lay offs. Assess each issue or situation individually and reach out for professional assistance if unsure on the best option or approach. HR or Safety Advisory, your legal counsel or other subject matter experts will be happy to help you navigate the challenges.
Remember in the grand scheme of things, this is a short term reality. Continue to use strategy that is based on your long term goals, even if you have to make temporary adjustments for now. This too shall pass - stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive.