How HR Can Address Employee Anxiety After Unrest at the Capitol

Many of us saw the events at the Capitol on January 6 unfold live. And if we didn’t see it live, we’ve certainly learned about it since. On top of a stressful election period, economic uncertainty, and a raging pandemic, we are all feeling a little worn down and anxious. Employers Council has published several articles addressing leadership and trauma over the last year:

This is different. Experts are saying that it is essential that HR and organizational leaders address this directly; your employees are thinking about it and it is affecting them. So, the question is, how do we walk the line?

  • Don’t be afraid to acknowledge stress and check in. Silence on the matter isn’t helping. Leaders can say, “I know things are uncertain and stressful right now, and I get it. The company is here to support you in any way we can.”
  • Talk about the company’s values and how you are working together to live those values.
  • Respect differences and remind employees that we will all have differences, and we are charged with working together toward our mission and goals. A divided team is not a productive team.
  • Be sure your employees know all the resources available to them. This article: Getting Employees Help in Crisis can help.
  • Make yourself obviously available. Don’t assume your employees know they can come to you, put the word out there in direct terms; “here is how to reach me – I’m here to listen.”
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Understand that people might need some time off. If your sick policies allow for mental health days, let employees take them. They might be more willing to take a sick day than a vacation day to just unplug and get some rest and relaxation.
  • Know your audience; should you address this as a group or individually? If there are tensions within the group, maybe you do both.
  • Go over your organization’s emergency preparedness and business continuity plans. If you don’t have those plans, now is an excellent time to start. Employees may be worried about unrest in your cities and towns; letting them know you have a plan can ease that anxiety.
  • Don’t forget to remind yourself of these points too. As HR and as leaders, we are also processing current events and working to manage our emotions as well as our differences in the workplace.

Right now is not the time for the old adage “check your life at the door.” In the last year, employees have had to move work into our homes, allow co-workers to see us in our personal spaces, with kids, pets, and partners all in the mix. We have learned that “work-life balance” may be a misnomer; it’s all life, and working to integrate them in a healthy way is difficult and important. HR and organizational leaders have a real opportunity here to create a culture of leadership, organizational stewardship, and compassion. Employers Council Organizational Development and HR consulting staff are here to help; give us a call.