Stricken by grief, the US is suffering on a massive scale. While many of the country's privileged inhabitants move about their regular work schedule, hundreds of thousands of citizens are struggling with recent events.
Over the past few months, the country has observed devastation caused by hurricanes. Endured the painful aftermath of inadequate responses to some of these hurricanes. Suffered through the worst mass shooting in the history of this nation. And bickered over a president's harsh words for professional athletes peacefully protesting racism and police brutality.
While many people are resilient and strong enough to persevere these challenging circumstances, it is naïve to presume that these national events do not impact the collective unconscious shared by everyone. In one way or another, these recent events will take their toll--whether though increased absenteeism, physical illness, the manifestation of psychological symptoms, or increased alcohol and drug use.
Addressing these difficulties is one part of being an inspirational leader. Leadership skills shine through during times of need by acknowledging the impact of current events and radiating confidence conveys optimism for the future. Improving your response to national tragedies not only assuages the emotional landscape of your business, but it will also boost productivity. The better and more supported employees feel, the better they can focus on the task at hand.
To boost productivity and support employees, the best leaders do the following 5 things:
1. Send out messages of support for the victims and individuals impacted.
First, educate yourself. Learn the facts of what happened and to whom. Then, after discovering some basic information, investigate statements made by other governing bodies and educated thought leaders. For example, look to ethical organizations like the American Psychological Association to see how they are commenting on recent events.
Take those elements and use them to help craft your message of support to employees impacted by current events. This message serves multiple purposes: on one hand, it builds a sense of community and teamwork, and on the other, it shows that you as an organization are open to having difficult discussions about current events. Most importantly, these messages let your employees know that you will do your best to support them (and keep them safe) while they're at work.
2. Consult with clinical psychologists to schedule timely and supportive interventions.
Clinical psychologists are experts in mental health and are skilled in responding to national tragedies. Use them! Reach out to psychologists near your place of business and ask them to create a program for you. These can range from team-building activities to educational programs to self-care exercises that help people maintain mental and emotional health. The more proactive you are in scheduling mental health programming, the better you can minimize the psychological impact of national tragedies.
3. Surprise your employees with a small "treat yourself" gift.
Yes, all employees enjoy positive feedback and gifts. While these gifts may take a small time investment (outsource to a valued team member if necessary), they send a warm, sympathetic message to your employees, which helps them feel supported and valued. Whether you purchase food, send them a small gift card, write them cards, or bring in masseuses for chair massages, your additional support will convey your values and inspire workers to bring their A game to their work.
4. Bring in mental health experts to create free consultation opportunities for employees.
One of the easiest ways to support employees is to bring in mental health experts and allow employees to meet with them. You can provide employees an option of scheduling specific times to consult, or request that the mental health expert stay on site for a day and take walk-ins. Sometimes just touching base with an expert can make a significant different for employees dealing with uncomfortable emotions.
5. Be proactive in identifying struggling individuals and provide them with resources.
As you know, time is money. When people struggle with emotional difficulties, it impacts their mental and physical health. If you want your business to maintain or improve productivity during national tragedies, you need to be proactive in your programming and quick in your assessment of needs. Provide struggling employees with resources so that they have a chance to deal with their grief before it has a significant impact on their work.
People need brilliant leaders now more than ever. With so many national tragedies in a short amount of time and such deafening uncertainty in the wake of traumatic experiences, people need increased support. We all need to acknowledge the importance of mental health and spend more time showing people they matter to us. Not just as productive employees, but as human beings.
The more effective leaders are at supporting employees, the better they perform, the happier they are, and the faster we all can heal.