Anne W. Chapman, Esq.
Labor and Employment, Business Litigation

The pandemic has created numerous challenges for employers, not the least of which include dealing with a workforce under tremendous stress related to the ongoing events and/or having to manage a remote workforce.

Without a doubt, these issues impact productivity and disrupt an employer’s operations. Below are some tips on how to address some of the issues affecting the workplace during this uncertain time.

The fear and stress created by COVID-19 impact both employers and employees. Stress can result in increased irritation, uncertainty, anxiety, lack of motivation, trouble concentrating and other negative emotions.

While there is no way to prevent this stress, employers can assist employees by recognizing these issues and taking steps to assist employees to manage stress and increase resilience during this uncertain time.

Assistance employers can provide include:

• Communicating with employees on a regular basis;

•Updating employees about the company’s COVID precautions and ensuring routine compliance with these policies;

• Reminding employees about any open-door policy or complaint procedure that can be used to address concerns about the workplace;

• Reminding employees about any available Employee Assistance Program;

• Providing contact information about local agencies and programs that can assist employees and their families during this time;

• Providing opportunities for employees to connect with one another socially (virtually);

• Checking in on any employee that seems overwhelmed or concerned

• Reminding employees of the importance of their roles within the company;

• Refraining from making any major changes, unless necessary;

• Providing occasional distractions for employees; and

• Emphasizing the importance of healthy habits within and outside of the workplace, including developing a consistent routine, exercising and healthy eating.

While none of these steps will eliminate stress for employees, they should provide some relief and demonstrate to employees a concern for their well-being during this difficult time.

Additionally, many employers are facing the difficult task of managing employees remotely for the first time on a large scale. Managing employees is no easy task during non-pandemic times. 2020 has created additional issues with the transition of many positions to remote, for the first time.

Below are some tips to make the remote working situation a little easier for both managers and employees:

• Maintain consistent and on-going communication;

• Engage with employees by phone and not exclusively by email;

• Solicit feedback from employees as to things that are going well and things that are difficult with the new remote work;

• Routinely communicate with employees concerning work performance and expectations; and

• Consider making changes in supervision or leads in the workforce to reflect the changed work environment.

Employers should keep in mind that remote work is likely not a temporary fix and address issues with its implementation today. Communicating expectations to employees and accountability on the part of employees about these expectations as well as feedback between supervisor and employee concerning job performance all should be maintained during this time period. Failure to do so hurts both performance and morale of the workforce.

It is up to supervisors to modify their management style to reflect the changed work environment. While this task may be intimidating and take some trial and error, the end result will most likely be a better and less stressful work environment.

To discuss workplace challenges, please contact labor and employment attorney Anne Chapman at 941.748.0100 or achapman@blalockwalters.com.

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