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Responding to crisis: How to support yourself and your team
Lyssa test – Culture Amp writer

Lyssa Test

Writer, Culture Amp

Change can come when you least expect it. Wildfires, hurricanes, a global pandemic, democratic uncertainty, and the Black Lives Matter movement were just a few of the issues that have affected us personally and professionally over the last year. As a result, we've learned the importance of being both responsive as well as compassionate in the midst of these crises.

We’ve seen shifts in how companies support employees through race-related issues, mental health challenges, and more. And, even amidst all the pain, stress, anger, fear, and anxiety, workforces have adapted and shown great resilience.

When we can, one of the most important things we can do is something.

— Didier ElzingaFounder and CEO of Culture Amp

Whether you're caring for yourself or your community, learning more about how you can be anti-racist, taking action to make our workplace equitable, or advocating for democratic processes, there’s always something you can do to help make your community, workplace, and country better.

We’ve compiled some of our most helpful resources to help you navigate trying times at the individual, manager, and organizational levels. Just remember that regardless of whatever life and work throw our way, you shouldn’t have to face it alone.

Resources for individuals

You can’t pour from an empty cup. When change or tragedy hits, we often make ourselves our last priority. But when we continue to put others’ needs ahead of our own, we wear ourselves down to the point that we either lash out or burn out.

Whether you’re HR, a manager, or an IC, self-care is crucial during trying times. It helps us process our emotions, come to terms with our situation, and figure out the best way to move forward. When we ensure that we’re taken care of – physically and mentally – we are better equipped to handle whatever situation is thrown our way. 

Though self-care is crucial for all individuals to practice, it’s especially important for employees to feel supported as they navigate the way crisis impacts unique parts of their identities. Situations can greatly and uniquely impact people of certain demographics (race, gender identity, sexual orientation) or people with certain responsibilities (parents, caregivers).

A daily self-care commitment of just 5-10 minutes can greatly improve your wellbeing. These healthy self-care habits could include taking a few moments to practice deep breathing, staying hydrated, taking a short 10-15 minute mental break, or setting boundaries to not check your email during family time. Just setting aside a few moments a day for yourself can make a world of difference. 

As you navigate your own journey and response during these trying times, here are some resources to help support your own physical and emotional wellbeing:

Resources for managers

As a manager, it’s your job to support your team in whatever ways they need. Remember, each person responds differently to change, so you’ll need to listen to your employees to understand how you can best support them through these trying times. Some employees might be unphased by current events, while others might be deeply affected. Everyone’s feelings, experiences, and situations are unique, so you never know how they might be affected when a crisis hits. 

As a people leader, it’s important for you to lead with empathy and build trust with your direct reports. If an employee’s performance has slipped or they’ve developed a pattern of missing deadlines, approach the conversation as a way to understand what they’re going through, what could be holding them back, and how you can help them succeed. 

Don’t wait for them to bring the conversation to you, try to broach the subject respectfully and carefully to see how they’re doing. That can be as simple as asking, “How are you feeling about _______ today?” Sometimes all an employee needs is someone to listen

Managers have an outsized impact on the employee experience, so if you can effectively train and support your managers in making decisions that maximize for healthy and happy employees, you’ll see a more engaged, productive workforce

— Maddy WilsonHealth and Happiness Manager at Collective Health

That said, don’t take everything on yourself. In times of uncertainty, there’s no way you can have all the answers. To keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to lean on your colleagues. You can share best practices and ask for advice on issues you aren’t sure how to solve. Working together can benefit all parties involved and help you and the business survive challenging times. 

Not sure how to be a good manager in times of crisis? Here are a few resources that can help you take care of yourself and your direct reports: 

Resources for your company

While customers and employees have long been asking companies to take a stance on social and political issues, many organizations have strayed away from picking sides on polarizing topics. However, in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of COVID-19, many businesses changed their tune by joining the fight against inequality and doing their share to help during the global health crisis. To keep up with changing customer and employee expectations, businesses need to find a way to genuinely and authentically join national conversations in a way that’s meaningful and not self-serving. 

In addition to helping the community at large, companies also need to look internally when it comes to taking a stand during turbulent times. Auditing pay equity, building a culture of inclusion and belonging, introducing fair hiring practices, and prioritizing employee wellbeing are all ways businesses can walk the walk. Communication and transparency are essential for building trust and accountability with employees on this front. 

But, business’ duties during trying times don’t end there. During periods of uncertainty and change, most people look to their employers for support and answers. Even amidst layoffs and budget cuts, HR teams have the impossible task of keeping morale and productivity high. But even as challenging situations arise, there is one aspect companies can always fall back on to help see them through: their company culture. 

In these difficult times, companies are finding out what their culture really is. The way people show up – from leaders to front line employees – is based on the environment you’ve created for them.

— Didier ElzingaFounder and CEO of Culture Amp

Your culture, mission, and values are the common threads that connect all your employees. They will guide and ground you when you have to make tough decisions and help bring you together as an organization to make it through trying times. 

Use these resources to help your company navigate how to react and respond to sociopolitical issues:

Supporting yourself and your team moving forward

While we hope the rest of 2021 is uneventful, it never hurts to be prepared for change. Employee engagement and pulse surveys can give you meaningful insights into their mindsets and needs, so you can better support your employees and help them navigate challenging times. To understand what your employees need during periods of uncertainty, just ask them. 

Help your employees work through it

Learn more

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