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Guide: Supporting emotional employees in the COVID-19 era

Here's where the employer comes into play.

2020 is the year many of us will never forget. And, depending on who you ask since #Cancel2020 is plastered on every social media site — some may be ready to block this global pandemic out of their memory forever.

This is a historic time. And, we don't know the gravity this will have on our collective for many years to come.

Did you miss our first workplace well-being webinar of the year? Don't sweat it! We've prepared a recording of, "Future Trends: The Shape of Workplace Well-being Programs" External Siteto watch at your earliest convenience.

Due to the pandemic alone, 43 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits External Site, and more than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed External Site their doors. These numbers only continue to rise by the week. And, let's not forget about the furloughed employees who remain waiting to return to work.

COVID-19 has not only impacted financial health, it's also severely impacting people's mental health, which means your employees.

Whether your workforce returns back to the physical workplace environment, or stays remote, we need to talk about emotional employees; who are they, what you need to know, how to hold constructive conversations and what resources you can provide to emotional employees and handling those emotions in the workplace.

That's why we've developed a complete guide to help you support emotional employees in the COVID-19 era.

Emotional issues stemming from COVID-19 will not disappear

Your employees are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 in varying degrees — some may be even be experiencing emotional trauma. We break down the major sources of emotional trauma and the long-term impacts to your employees:

  • Depression and anxiety Opens in a new window.

    Even before the pandemic hit, Johns Hopkins External Site found that 42 percent of employees struggle, at one time or another, with some level of stress, anxiety or depression caused by pressures at work, relationship problems, poor physical health and financial worries. If this is just during ‘normal’ times — imagine how your employees are feeling amidst a pandemic. Whether an employee is furloughed, has a family member who has been laid off, or is transitioning to working remotely, this time can cause a lot of stress, anxiety and uncertainty.

  • Social isolation Opens in a new window.

    Most of the population has been confined to self-isolation. Whether that’s being alone in a studio apartment or living among multiple family members — there is still a component of isolation your employees are facing. They aren’t able to see or speak with their coworkers, friends, neighbors, or family members. And long-term social isolation can negatively impact your employees’ overall health and well-being.

  • Financial loss.

    Everything from job loss, furlough, trading a dual-income for one-income — this pandemic has showcased extreme economic loss within a few short months. While each generation has been impacted, it’s Millennials and Generation Z — the soon to be largest population of the workforce — who will bear this financial impact. Consider incorporating a financial wellness program into your workplace if you don't already have one.

What you need to know about emotional employees

Let’s paint the picture of what an emotional employee could look like.

Your employee, Todd, has been in his current role for several years. He is eager for a promotion, but feels he is stuck, frustrated, and getting bored with the work and people he works with every day. Todd begins to become irritable toward his stakeholders and coworkers — often unknowingly. You and everyone know that deep down, Todd is a great person, but he has developed a complex of bringing negativity to every situation at work and your employees are becoming emotionally drained.

Here are a few additional examples of an emotional employee:

  • Constantly checking in
  • Always asking if they did their work correctly
  • Inability to make a move without someone telling them what to do
  • Continually bothering or questioning co-workers to complete a task
  • Repeated reviews on instructions or objectives
  • Sounding unsure of themselves
  • Interrupting managers with small inquiries
  • External or internal stakeholders mentioning they struggle working with the employee

How can you hold constructive conversations with an emotional employee?

Let’s bring Todd’s situation back into the mix. If you’ve been receiving multiple inquiries about employees feeling emotionally drained, frustrated or lost for how to support Todd — it’s time to have a constructive conversation. There are several companies who would sweep the issue under the rug, and others who would completely isolate Todd — we’re here to tell you that neither is the answer.

It’s no simple task to hold a difficult, constructive conversation with an emotional employee, but it’s essential.

  1. Plan out conversation.

    There’s a time and place for spontaneity — however, when holding a constructive and difficult conversation with an emotional employee, now is not the time. Create an outline of the conversation. What are you going to say? What do you need to cover? How might the other person react?
  2. Be direct.

    Get to the point as quickly as you can. Try to avoid the sandwich method External Site, or an abundance of compliments before getting to the real conversation.
  3. Listen and showcase empathy.

    Before you go into the conversation with an employee, put yourself in their shoes — how would you feel if you were receiving the same feedback? Don’t forget, there is strength in emotion. If an employee is visibly upset, apologetic, and attentive, they care!
  4. Invite questions.

    Questions from the employee can allow for you to make clarifications. Additionally, if there are no questions, ask them questions to make sure everyone is on the same page. Do a round of follow up questions to ensure the conversation was fully understood.
  5. Create an action plan.

    Think of specific examples or areas where they can improve. Be ready to provide resources, training, or suggestions to help them  make progress and change.

Continue to have regular check-ins and progress updates with the employee you’ve conversed with.

What can you do to support and be an ally for emotional employees?

Every employee’s emotional situation is different. And, since most of your employees are spending more than 40 hours per week at work, they expect a thing or two from their employer — especially when it comes to their mental and emotional health. Consider these support methods for supporting emotional employees:

Need extra support? Our team of experts are here to help

At Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we know your business and have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in house. Our team of employer health and well-being consultants can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your employee population.

Every step of the way, our team can be your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because one-size doesn’t fit all.

If you are interested in learning more about how we can support your organization and your employee’s health and well-being, contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.