Best ways to support employees during difficult times

While we tend to focus on planning for an upward trajectory in the business world, we often fail to plan for times of hardship. All businesses go through the ups and downs, in every sector. It would be practically impossible to have a business that faces hard times, and when a business experiences difficulties, so do its employees.

As the owner of a business, or manager of a team, you will, unfortunately, have to face difficult times. While it’s easy to panic and throw all of your energy into problem-solving, it’s important that you ensure no-one on your team is left behind in the chaos. Employees will look to you for support and reassurance during this uneasy period and here are some of the ways you can support them.

Nurture  consistent communication

When difficult times hit, your employees are bound to be worried, scared, and unsure about both the company’s future and their own. Shutting them out of communication about what is going on will only lead to distrust and anxiety. Treat your employees with respect by giving them the time and the platform to voice their concerns openly.

Nurture open communication with your employees by scheduling team meetings or one-on-ones with staff, so that you can listen to your employees and tell them what is going on. No matter what their initial reaction is, they will all be grateful to know that you took the time to speak with them as individuals.

Be open and transparent, always

When it comes to financial difficulties, it can be incredibly tempting to sweep the bad news under the carpet and avoid communicating altogether, at least to your employees who could end up suffering due to financial uncertainty or loss. While it’s imperative that you give your employees the time and space to talk, you also need to commit to speaking up and being honest about the situation so they have realistic expectations.

Ensure that your approach to the situation is open and totally transparent. Be completely honest with your employees. This will foster a culture of trust and support rather than one of secrecy. It will also mean that if and when more bad news does come, it is less of a shock to your employees. Giving employees a heads-up about difficult times as early as possible is also for their benefit so they can prepare for the worst and look after their own family or concerns.

Clarity about what comes next

As the leader of the business, you are probably working hard to come up with a feasible action plan. Tackling hard times is never easy or simple, and it may take a matter of weeks or months before a plan for your company's future is finalised. Nevertheless, you should strive to be open and crystal clear about this plan.

Reassure your employees that you are working on a plan. Share the details and steps of this plan with everyone in the company. A plan will help employees have a sense of where you are all headed, which will actually help them to produce a higher quality of work and not be distracted by uncertainty or chaos.

Offer a range of flexible options, as much as possible

Difficult times can come in various shapes and sizes. If your company is dealing with a nationwide or even a global crisis, things are probably difficult for your employees at home, as well as at work. Be sure to think about how you can be flexible and supportive of your employees, enabling them to work around new circumstances.

For some employees, flexible working hours can be beneficial. For others, the option to work from home can be hugely beneficial. You could even consider letting employees bring kids or pets to work, if the workspace is appropriately set up.

Studies have shown that flexible working conditions can actually increase productivity by 65%. Working from home can also help employees to save an average of £44.78 a week. In difficult times, these savings can go a long way.

Think about the physical AND mental health of your employees

When financial difficulties become an issue at the company (and, potentially, in the global economy) some employees may struggle with quite serious mental health problems. Issues like anxiety, depression, and insomnia are all more common during difficult times. While you may think that this only affects the general mood, poor mental health can also have a serious impact on physical health and work levels.

It’s crucial that you use some of your resources to provide mental health support for employees who need it. Offer time off, flexible working, and even hands-on support. If you have an HR team in your company, use their expertise to create a clear plan on how you intend to support the mental health of your employees. Even providing information about the NHS’s mental health services and an open space to talk can be extremely helpful. Make sure as an owner or manager that you’

Take care of yourself before taking care of others

Remember that you won’t be any help to anyone unless you take care of yourself first. While you may feel anxious to pour all of your energy into getting your company back on its feet and supporting your employees through the difficult time, it’s important to spend some time taking care of your own physical and mental health.

Commit to a clear work life balance. Try not to take your work home with you. Eat healthy, balanced meals and find time to exercise. By taking care of your own health, you’ll be in a much better position to help others.

Be an honest and supportive leader 

Times of crisis are never easy or simple. If your company is struggling or going through uncertain times, following these steps is the best way to keep your business on track and keep your employees feeling confident and secure in their roles.

Remember to be open, honest, caring, and clear—this is all your employees will ask of you, and it’s the best way to foster trusting, supportive relationships throughout the company. You’ll find that by being a supportive leader, your employees will give back to you and the company as much as they can, and you can all face the difficult times ahead as a united team.


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