Leading a safe and productive workforce during times of uncertainty

Leading a safe and productive workforce during times of uncertainty

By Brie DeLisi

The world has been incredibly impacted over the course of the last month with COVID-19 and impacts on our economy. Leaders are being confronted with challenges that they have never had to address before, and it can be overwhelming. Leadership skills during this time are more important than they have ever been, to continue to promote a culture of safety and productivity.

The impact on employees

During concerning times, employees look to their leaders to provide support. Clearly these are unprecedented times and one that is a cause for serious concern. As a leader, your personal reactions are incredibly valid to this rapidly changing environment. It is vital to keep in mind, your attitude and expressions in front of employees will impact the work that your employee performs. If a leader is panicked or stressed in front of employees… the employee is going to react accordingly, panicked and stressed. Someone experiences stress, their brain is entirely occupied by that stressor, which results in a lack of focus on the job and reduces productivity as well as safe work practices. The chances of an injury occurring while distracted by stress increases significantly, which will further impact productivity and the bottom line, as well as that individual’s ability to provide for his or her family. While we’re experiencing these troubled times, it is important for the survival of your company to ensure that employees to stay as focused and productive as possible.

Here are our tips for leading a safe and productive workforce during times of uncertainty:

– Take a deep breath and demonstrate level-headedness in front of employees – it is natural for us to mirror calm and collected behavior, just as we would mirror stressful or angry reactions. One way to do this is to practice breathing exercises that will force the brain to calm down.
– Wait 15 minutes before sending that mass email and reread it from the perspective of the employee. Sometimes communications can’t wait due to rapidly evolving situations, in which case make your email as brief as possible and advise that you’ll follow up with more information soon.
– Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions that will impact the health and safety of employees – write out the pros and cons of each decision option and choose the one that makes the most sense or has the least negative impact. When sharing your decision, also share your reasoning with employees.
– Discuss business priorities with your employees, and always list safety as #1. It is of course, no longer business as usual for many of us, and safety may be pushed out of typical conversations. What many leaders need to understand is that employees will prioritize exactly what is said, and if safety isn’t explicitly mention, it will not be considered important.
– Safety should remain a regular topic during meeting and calls. Just because the state of business has changed, doesn’t mean we can’t spend a minute to reiterate the importance of safety.
– Remember to ask your employees how they are, how their work is going, and how they are managing in this time.
– Listen to employees concerns and reassure them. Reassuring might just be in the form of “I am doing the best I can for you and our company” – these are unprecedented times and it is perfectly okay to not have the ‘right’ answer
– Provide resources for your employees to manage their stress or concerns (meditation apps, mental health resources, discussion forums, etc.)
– Be open and honest with your employees, if resources are more limited and their jobs are going to be impacted – they will appreciate it if you take the time to explain why.


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