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Managing in times of crisis

In the midst of this global pandemic (COVID-19) crisis, our professional and personal futures feel uncertain each day. Businesses are striving to pick up where they left off, some trying very hard to stay afloat and some are just not able to. None of us are immune to the current state of our world, businesses and families are at risk, health-wise, psychological and financial wise. It's impact is devastating, and most are unsure when this will end or if there will be a 2nd or a 3rd wave. There are a few things I am reflecting on and am quite concerned about due to this situation:

1) The lack of transparent communication and assurance from organizations

2) Employee burnout

3) The cost of survival

The lack of transparent communication and assurance from organizations

Especially in these times when the pandemic is causing havoc in the business world, it is important for leaders / employers to communicate and update employees more frequently than ever, of the state of business as well as to check in on them on how they are keeping. This helps them to feel seen, heard and valued. It also helps them to keep focused and on track. Speak or write authentically, be transparent and do it promptly. Employees that don't receive regular updates may make up what they don’t know to fill the information vacuum. This is certainly not helpful for the mental well-being.

When stress and fear set in unnecessarily, it can start a chain reaction depending on the person's ability to respond to stress. I would consider this stress as "perceived threat" - threat about anything and everything, e.g the loss of job, finances, how to keep the commitments, how to break it to the family and friends etc. Besides stress, fear sets in. Each employee tries to outdo / outperform / outshine the other in whichever manner to ensure they have a piece of the pie and is "seen as productive". The cost of survival can drive many to react aggressively / hostile at the cost of a harmonious team working environment - "every man for himself". To be in the shoes of someone who doesn't play these games but are affected by their colleagues can be unnerving and may cause physical, mental and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, migraine, suicidal ideation, etc. Both the aggressor and the victim may suffer at the cost of the lack of communication and assurance from the upper management.

If the company has sufficient reserves, and the leaders are not worried about riding this out, the very least they can do is to inform their staffs (as often as possible) and keep assuring them about it for their peace of mind. You will have a more productive - creative, healthy, and motivated employee. I would not like to imagine what any employee would do when pushed to the brink.

2) Employee burnout.

More employees are suffering from burnout in the wake of this pandemic due to the lack of work life balance. Below is a research taken from Human Resources Director Asia, May 2020 on reasons for employee burnout.

  • 26.7% – No separation between work and life

  • 20.5% – Unmanageable workload

  • 18.8% – Job security concerns

  • 11.1% – Lack of support from manager

  • 10.8% – Lack of control over work

From a recent engagement with others, most shared that there was no work life balance, that they were being checked upon frequently, other words, micro-managed and some who have job security concerns causing over productivity. Not forgetting that having constant virtual calls can drain anyone mentally and physically as well.

To support this, some companies engage mental health organizations to give talks or have webinars on mental well-being and self care for their staffs. Offers for counselling paid by the company would be helpful in times like this. It is important to be open about mental health issues in the workplace and talk about ways to address it. Be open about it and share; be kind and compassionate towards each other. When someone opens up and shares with you their concern, be there for them and do not judge them. Times like this, we should all have the three musketeers' motto - "Un pour tous, tous pour un", one for all, all for one, and not every man for himself.

3) The cost of survival

I couldn't help but wonder the effect this pandemic has for those who have huge financial commitments and for those who are more vulnerable to stress. There were recent news on suicide following job loss, lack of human connection, and mental health disorders caused by stress. This is something we need to talk about openly. I was wondering if I should write about this and I know if I did, at least we would be reminded to keep a look out for those around us. On hearing of a large retrenchment of a certain well paying skilled job, I asked a friend of mine how his friends are coping and to keep a look out for them; it is not so much the financial loss / job loss but how they would react to it.

Take this time to check in with each other, be present for one another, practice kindness and compassion with everyone you come across for you don't know what they are going through. If it helps make / cook / bake or buy something for someone; make their day knowing that you thought of them. We have reason to be hopeful as research on past crises (like after the 9/11 disaster) has shown that suicide rates decreased due to support, kindness, and care given and shared among the people (Psychology Today, June 2020). I believe we can get through this by working together to prevent unnecessary stress, fear, worry, deaths and plan for a better future as one humanity.


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