Is Your Business Equipped to Deal with Worker Stress Amid COVID-19 Pandemic?

Source: Aleksandr Davydov/123RF

Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 and other strong emotions can be overwhelming, and workplace stress can lead to burnout.

How you cope with these emotions and stress can affect your well-being, the well-being of the people you care about, your workplace, and your community.

The National Safety Council is calling on employers to address worker stress, as well as emotional and mental health, now and as traditional work functions resume.

As of June 2020, at least 30 states have reported that opioid overdose fatalities are on the rise in correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supervisors play a critical role in addressing substance use in the workplace. They are often the first to notice a difference in an employee’s performance, personality, and activities.

They may also be the first to notice impairment. It is imperative to provide supervisors with the tools they need to protect worker safety and health, while also maintaining employee privacy.

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, supervisors should be prepared to engage with their employees more frequently, and possibly on more personal topics than typical.

For example, employees may be experiencing extreme stress linked to social instabilities (housing, financial, food, family dynamics) that would not typically be shared with a manager or supervisor.

Supervisors will need extra training and assistance in the following areas as they support their employees:

  • Understanding substance use disorders (SUDs) and their relationship to worker health and impairment;
  • Understanding acute and chronic stress and their relationship to worker health and impairment;
  • Understanding fatigue and its relationship to worker health and impairment; and
  • Understanding mental health conditions and their relationship to worker health and impairment, among others.

Via its SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns initiative, NSC is providing resources and tools for employers to address mental health concerns as part of the reopening process and assist workers who might be experiencing stress caused by financial, employment and child/family care instabilities, as well as fear of being exposed to or infected by COVID-19.