How can leaders improve employee wellbeing through a crisis?

There are a number of ways business leaders can help improve psychological resilience and employee wellbeing post-coronavirus, according to Professor Frederik Anseel, Associate Dean of Research at UNSW Business School

So whenever something happens, a bad event or a crisis, what you will see is that there's a drop in people's wellbeing. But people normally on average, quickly recover from that. 

Whatever happens, we have some sort of adaptive moment that we're able to recover from whatever happens to us. 

We all have a bit of a problem if there's a crisis – we're destabilised, and we wondering what's happening – but some people can more quickly recover from that in terms of performance, but also in wellbeing.

So normally, when a company is in a crisis, we have a period of uncertainty and typically leadership managers will be able to explain: look, this is where we are, this is what is likely going to happen and this is where we end up.

But this is something that we've never seen before. This is a once-in-a-lifetime, once in 100-year crisis and event and so the uncertainty is everywhere. It is impacting individual lives.

So what we should be able to do is explain to people: this is new for all of us, we've never been here before. What we know is that our normal routines won't work in this situation. So we'll have to adapt, each of us. So let's approach is like an experiment. Let's learn from this. 

I think what managers should do here is be very open about what is happening; be very open that they don't have all the information, that they don't know what is happening and that they're very happy and willing to revise their views, their beliefs and their plans over the next weeks and months.

That is not easy to do, but if you do it early on and you clearly say: look, we have as much information as you have, we don't know exactly what will be happening, but here is our timeline [and] these are probably the time points when we will make a decision. And for each of those time points, this is the different views and information that we will collect and we will use that and making decisions.

So people don't have any certainty about the outcome, but they have some certainty about when to expect something, a decision, and they also can have some trust that you will use all information available and listen also to them when making that decision.

And that creates a bit of more certainty and also that gives people a sense of control about the situation and how things are going.

So that is my recommendation to managers and leaders: be very open, be very honest and be willing to revise your plans and revise your beliefs in this.


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