First and foremost, it’s important that every interaction with your employee is one of respect and dignity. Losing your revenue stream is tough enough during normal circumstances, and the added external pressure of a global pandemic can be extremely stressful. Now, more than ever you will need to support staff in the ways that they need it, through showing empathy.
- Go in with an idea of how the conversation will play out Map out the key points you want to cover with your team member and ensure that you leave enough room to listen and respond to what they are saying. The meeting should not be dominated by one side or the other, it should be a conversation. Have resources ready around maintaining mental health and job seeking assistance.
- Practice active listening Recognise that this is a very difficult time for your team member, they are likely going through tremendous amounts of stress. Ensure you listen to everything that they say, and make an effort to verbally recognise their feelings and validate them.
- Establish a post meeting plan By building a plan during the meeting, you lay the baseplate for communication afterward and set clear expectations. Perhaps your team members may need some time to process before your first check-in with them, or maybe they would prefer you to touch base with them more regularly. It’s important that you construct this plan together so that you can both stay on the same page.
- Action the post meeting plan This is a very important step on this list. The added uncertainty of not having a revenue stream mixed with the current global crisis is sure to have a negative impact on mental health. It is your duty to support your team with respect and follow up when you agreed that you would. Not only does it help to reestablish trust, it provides comfort to your team members knowing that they can rely on you.
The Fairwork Ombudsman has put together this useful resource on how to have a difficult conversation with your team members. It provides guidance on how to prepare, and handle the direction of the conversation, but also how to manage both your own and your team member’s emotions.
Assisting employee mental health
Employee mental health is just as important as physical health and as much as you can do to help look after this the better. This can begin with providing a list of resources, here are a few places to start:
The Queensland Government ‘How to look after your mental wellbeing in a crisis’ article is an excellent starting point for finding up to date resources and useful tools. It provides immediately actionable ideas that your team members can start using.
Lifeline is a fantastic resource to use if you think your team member may need to discuss their situation with someone external. They also provide useful tools for managing stress and staying connected.
Beyond Blue has a great website dedicated to Coronavirus which includes a series of links that can help with
- Ways to stay positive if you’ve lost your job
- Managing mental health if you’re a small business owner
- Looking after mental health when self isolation
Keep in contact with your team members
Just like the economic downturn in 2008, all things come to an end and the Coronavirus crisis will not last forever. The reason that there is an option to stand down employees is that these circumstances are extraordinary but also temporary. This is why it’s so important to continue to maintain contact with your employees who have been stood down so that they continue to recognise they are valued.
Check-in with your team to see where you can provide assistance to them. Perhaps they need some help with a job hunt and you can help out, or maybe they aren’t going so well and you could provide a helpline or employee assistance program. In many cases where employees have been stood down, they may find it difficult to proactively seek out help and ask questions. This is where the check-in shines, as it’s a relatively informal method that gives way to a relaxed environment where your employees may find it easier to raise questions or suggestions.
While there may not be any new information available to give your team regarding their future employment or business updates, it’s still important to keep in touch. In these circumstances something is better than nothing, if there is just radio silence coming from their previous leader, it may be perceived as an act of ambivalence towards them. Let them know that you will share information as soon as it becomes available, but in the interim a simple ‘how are you coping’ goes a long way.
Support your team with their job hunt
As the outbreak continues to speak globally, it’s difficult to predict when social distancing will be eased and life will begin to return to normality. It may be prudent to help your stood down employees into casual or full time work where possible.
A great way to start this process off is to write them a reference. Ask them what they think would be most beneficial to touch on for their job search, and tailor it to fit that mould. They are the ones that are looking for the jobs available and probably have the best understanding on what may be needed to nab the position. Also, make yourself available as a reference and ensure you’re easily contactable.
Another way where you can provide assistance is by offering to reach out to your networks. It’s important to make sure you have your team member’s consent before doing this.
In the interim, if your team members are eligible for the Jobseeker allowance be prompt in providing the letter from the employer. The sooner this can be provided to them, the quicker they will receive their payments. It’s important to note that many are eligible for this even if they haven’t officially stood down but are facing a reduction in their hours. Here is a handy article that details the steps of how to apply for Jobseeker from beginning to end.