Managing the COVID-19 Crisis: What Employers Can Do

By Dan Fallon, LPC, CEAP, Program Manager
Wheeler Employee Assistance Program

“ … there are steps employers can take to address unprecedented challenges.”

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is testing businesses and their employees in new and extraordinary ways. Unlike situational crises such as workplace violence incidents, on-site accidents, or employee mental health and substance misuse concerns, this outbreak is fluid. Details continue to evolve. The end date is uncertain.

In addition, traditional supports such as in-person counseling are more limited. Individuals must cope, interact, and work differently as they move through trauma, anxiety— currently, the most prevalent issue—and grief. There are ways to manage this situation, however, and there are steps employers can take to address unprecedented challenges.

Help employees to be productive both on-site and at home. Regardless of individual work styles, employees may need additional attention and follow-up at this time. Some may need more structure. Others will work better independently. Know your team, and understand how members work and interact. Most importantly, understand that your employees’ sense of security is challenged, and their ability to cope, as well as their approach to communicating and working, may shift during this period.

Check in with your staff. Ask how they are doing. Encourage their self-care. Stay alert to signs of higher-than-normal levels of anxiety, which, eventually can lead to depression and additional issues that affect short- and longer-term performance and productivity. If you identify issues that require additional assistance, connect individuals to your company’s Employee Assistance Program.

Nurture opportunities for professional development. During this time, especially, encourage employees to take on new work-related challenges, or to enroll in trainings to expand their skills. By doing so, you redirect their attention from a steady stream of news and social media, to a focused approach to their professional growth.

Show your appreciation. Look for opportunities to build an even greater level of trust by highlighting individual and team accomplishments. Share ongoing communications and information to help maintain a connection with your organization, and demonstrate gratitude by rewarding employees with flexible work schedules, time off, or related workplace benefits.

Remind employees about your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Some people in your workforce don’t have family or may struggle with managing their anxiety alone because of cultural or other reasons. These individuals need additional support. Stay attuned to the needs of your team. Pay special attention to what you hear, but more importantly to what’s not being heard or said. Silence—or significantly decreased communication—often is a powerful sign that an employee is struggling.

How We Can Help

If you and your employees need assistance with navigating this difficult period, contact Wheeler’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). We provide behavioral health services to employees and their family members and consultative services to managers and supervisors to help address issues that affect their workforce. The goal of the Wheeler EAP is to help organizations and their employees achieve optimal health and wellness.

Visit our website at, or call 1.800.275.3327.


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