Lincoln Absence Advisor

Manager preparedness with employees' anxiety

June 04, 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Season 1 Episode 14
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Manager preparedness with employees' anxiety
Chapters
Lincoln Absence Advisor
Manager preparedness with employees' anxiety
Jun 04, 2020 Season 1 Episode 14
Lincoln Financial Group

Many people returning to the workplace are dealing with stress and anxiety; this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor discusses how managers can approach and support their employees as they make this transition. Lincoln Financial's Paula Aznavoorian-Barry, Manager of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Melissa Michuda, Return-to-Work Specialist, explore the importance of preparing managers to help employees—and making sure the managers also have support while handling their own stressors. Important topics include:

  • Awareness of all the resources available to managers and employees, such as EAP programs and virtual trainings that cover key topics such as financial advising, stress management, and mental health
  • The importance of open communication that reflects transparency and empathy, from leadership down to managers and supervisors
  • Keeping in mind that every situation is different, and that an open mind is essential when addressing employees’ needs 


LCN-3105792-052920
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.


Show Notes Transcript

Many people returning to the workplace are dealing with stress and anxiety; this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor discusses how managers can approach and support their employees as they make this transition. Lincoln Financial's Paula Aznavoorian-Barry, Manager of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Melissa Michuda, Return-to-Work Specialist, explore the importance of preparing managers to help employees—and making sure the managers also have support while handling their own stressors. Important topics include:

  • Awareness of all the resources available to managers and employees, such as EAP programs and virtual trainings that cover key topics such as financial advising, stress management, and mental health
  • The importance of open communication that reflects transparency and empathy, from leadership down to managers and supervisors
  • Keeping in mind that every situation is different, and that an open mind is essential when addressing employees’ needs 


LCN-3105792-052920
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.


Karen Batson:

Hi everyone. This is Karen Batson, Marketing Manager for disability and leave at Lincoln Financial Group. In today's episode, of Lincoln Absence Advisor, we continue our conversation on back to the workplace anxiety. However today, we focus on the importance of preparing managers to support employees dealing with this anxiety and stress. To have this discussion, I'm joined by Paula Aznavoorian-Barry Manager of ocational rehabilitation services and Melissa Machuda Return to Work Specialist. Welcome ladies thank you for joining us today.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

Thanks for having us.

Karen Batson:

So let's jump right in on the topic of preparing managers to support their employees who may have anxiety or stress with returning to the workplace, which is a hot topic right now. Um, but first and foremost, have you observed various practices with managers or supervisors and their training on how to handle anxiety of employees? And maybe this is even before the current situation?

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

I would say that many of the pre COVID-19 practices are going to be the same as we are going to have now during COVID-19. Making sure that managers are aware of all of the resources in their organization to help them and to be able to provide training on those resources to their employees and know really how to guide the employee who may be experiencing some kind of anxiety. The practices again that have been in place, right along are going to be the practices that are going to help them moving forward today.

Karen Batson:

So you mentioned the kind of resources, what resources should employers make sure their managers are aware of?

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

The most common resources that I think we all know about from even our own experience with our own organizations are things like the EAP program, online trainings and webinars on wellness and health . Mindfulness, mindfulness is a very big topic over the past year and so it's very helpful now. Those kinds of resources, knowing how to navigate their own health benefits and what's available and leave paid time off. All of those types of resources,

Melissa Michuda:

Even benefits that we receive. Um, maybe we're not taking advantage of such as like a financial planning or financial advisor, especially now with the climate , uh , people, you know, may have family members who are out of work and or they may be facing a furlough. So I think also the financial resources are definitely something that are of importance.

Karen Batson:

Are there any other resources we'd want to mention for manager preparedness and dealing with specifically employee anxiety and stress?

Melissa Michuda:

I definitely think , um, any sort of training that goes along with stress management and trying to navigate our current climates with information in to stressors and triggers and how to manage those and uh , communication even.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

I think also , uh , just to remembering that managers may not necessarily know how to identify signs of stress or anxiety. And so training managers on that alone, that recognition piece is really very important , um , in these times because it may be something they're not used to seeing. And that training is relevant more than ever now.

Karen Batson:

I would think it's even more important because there's probably so many things triggering an employees stress about returning back to the workplace.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

Exactly, exactly. I think , um , it's not always just the employee and the workplace causing stress. It's important to remember that there are other things in people's lives happening. It could be, as Melissa indicated before, some financial concerns. It could be that there are childcare issues. Uh , there , there's a plethora of items that could be triggering that stress. And it's hard to necessarily know what's happening all the time in somebody's life.

Karen Batson:

I think that naturally makes a manager think , okay , how do I find out what's going on? So I kind of want to ask this question. Should managers be careful about how much information they find out?

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

It's important to be empathetic and it's important to support your employees, but at the same time, it is important to your point, Karen, to be cautious of being too invasive. If you can recognize that something is happening and, and how you recognize that, right? You look at some of the signs, it could be , um, someone's calling in frequently or they're missing their deadlines or their performance is changing. Um, they're irritable. Noticing that employees maybe having difficulty concentrating and making decisions. Um, you know, for example, they get up and they leave their desk a lot and you can see that frustration coming through. Um, or there was withdrawing from something at work that they normally would be thrilled to be a part of some kind of activity or work engagement. Um, if their routine is changing it , you know, a lot of us don't even realize how we physically emote and how that changes when we're our mood changes or our anxiety or stress level changes. Um, so those things are important to watch for. Be open and be empathetic and acknowledge that you're observing some things happening and ask, is there anything I can do to help you? Is there anything you need from me without being too invasive of you look like you're having anxiety in your life or you look like you're under a lot of stress. I think the empathy comes from recognizing what you're seeing as being a struggle and trying to help with that.

Karen Batson:

And when these signs are observed, what key tips could a manager keep in mind?

Melissa Michuda:

I would think definitely the communication piece. Just even, just a simple question of, you know, how are you doing lately? I know the world is in an odd place, you know , in and checking in with people, always checking in with your staff.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

I think to Melissa's point, the emotional awareness and element is important. Um, but also remember if what you're noticing is a performance difference, that that's an issue you do want to address head on because work is work, the world of work and our expectations of what an employee is there to do don't change. Right? So you need to keep that conversation very, very honest and direct. Um, but I would say that for some managers that can be very , um , difficult line to walk in these days and times some of the managers are having difficulties themselves. So, you know, not knowing exactly how to address that could be an issue. And I always recommend that the manager used their human resources partners whenever there's that sense of something needs to be addressed and not quite sure how to do it. Um, either utilizing their own manager or human resources to make sure that there's a good balance of what we're telling our employees we expect for them to do and understanding that this is a trying time for everybody.

Karen Batson:

Could they go to a fellow managers or is that usually a, you don't want to discuss that sort of thing in like kinda your co manager atmosphere?

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

As long I think as long as they're careful about what they're disclosing for information. There's nothing wrong with going to your peers and saying, have you ever had a situation where X, Y and Z and how did you handle it? You want to be careful about the specifics, but use your community. You know we have , you're right there. We have our peers, we have our managers. It's a bigger community than just being alone for sure.

Karen Batson:

Do you have advice for how a manager can handle their own stress and anxiety to, to help them focus in on what their team's doing and how to get them back into the workplace?

Melissa Michuda:

I would definitely say using all of the resources that we're talking about right now, they're not just for our all humans. They're for our, they're for us as well. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Keeping a pulse on you know, how you're feeling and doing. Um , you're only going to be able to, you know, be your best self if you're actually taking care of yourself. So.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

I think of it in of the airplane announcement, right? When when air pressure drops and the mass comes down, take care of yourself first so that then you're able to take care of others and , and it really is, is the same thing. You have to be your own best self first.

Karen Batson:

Are there things that employers can do to help alleviate some of what managers will have to handle? Um, when it comes to getting back to the workplace and the anxiety some of the employees and teams might have?

Melissa Michuda:

Definitely keeping up that communication with their employees, having a plan of return. Um, and also making sure that everyone knows that they're in this together. It is, it is a community of people coming back in. There's going to be some flexibility that is still going to have to happen. There's going to definitely be situations that are going to arise that maybe they haven't met before. So taking it a day at a time.

Karen Batson:

Yeah, we touch about a lot of that in the last podcast so definitely recommend for our listeners to go back and kind of listen to through some of that element because it is a theme of that communication and being transparent and flexible, especially as we kind of switched , switch back to whatever this new normal will be. Would you say there's an opportunity here regarding manager training , um , on employee anxiety and mental wellbeing? Like is this something really employers could focus on and make make a difference?

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

Absolutely. I think what I've seen in the past is that wellness, emotional wellness for manager trainings has been perhaps one very small piece of a very well built training program for managers with many employers and in the day and age that we are in now, it has to be expanded upon. I think that we are, we have come to realize that all of the studies are now showing how prevalent mental health issues can be behavioral issues can be and the impact it has, not only on individuals but their families, their workplace, their employer, and having seen what's happening with the return to work occurring in the covert environment. We are learning that this is an area that needs a lot more attention and a lot more training. And I don't think I've ever seen this much attention to making sure that managers and employees have what they need around their wellbeing and mental health. And I've been around the block a few times in the industry and this is the first that I've seen this kind of attention to mental health concerns. Truly.

Melissa Michuda:

Yeah . It's always seems like one of those things that's , it's , it's always been there, but it's in the background. But due to the state of the world and the issues today, it's now being brought to the forefront, which is very important.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

How do you, you know, in the current environment has provided a lot of opportunities? Um , when it , it goes to how we work. Um, and , and probably also the topics on employee wellbeing. Um, what do you think on how, what some of those opportunities might be? How we get managers trained or, or give them the support they need. The virtual training today is, and self paced training is so it's so easy and makes everything so readily available. I think that if I'm hearing your question correctly, I think that that is one of the easiest ways or the most effective and efficient ways to ensure that all managers get that training.

Melissa Michuda:

Yeah. And even taking a look at what they currently have and what they could expand upon, but some companies may not have had the resources before and are now realizing the importance of them. So now they're trying to create , um, you know, resources and trainings for their own managers. Um, it's really, it's not just out of necessity, but now it's truly, it's going to be something very beneficial for them.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

And to that point, Melissa, I think you're right, a lot of employers may not have had the infrastructure before to support all of the virtual or remote types of actions and activities that they're doing today. You know, two years ago, even a year ago they never would have thought, Oh , you know, I can't have employees working from home or we don't have the infrastructure with our systems to do things remotely, but what we've learned through this by force is absolutely it can be done and and many employers are now up and running so effectively and so efficiently that thinking about doing trainings and sessions remotely, it is a no brainer for them. They've realized how easy they can achieve that.

Karen Batson:

If you were to build, this might be a challenging question, if you were to build like a 30 minute manager training on employee wellbeing, what topics would you make sure to include?

Melissa Michuda:

I would definitely think that I'm including more about mental health awareness. I, we've had trainings about mental health in the workplace for quite a while , but due to all of the stressors in the situation, it is coming more into the forefront and I think that's important. Um, everybody at some point. I've seen statistics that say 60% of workers at some point in the year will go through some sort of a mental health crisis. Uh , so I do think it's important to be aware also maybe the de-stigmatizing mental health and disabilities as a whole is, is very important.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

And I know that Dr. Pransky in, in one of the earlier podcasts talked about some of the statistics that Melissa is referencing. And so I wholeheartedly agree that even recognition of when someone is struggling is probably one of the key trainings for managers. Being able to recognize when someone is struggling a little bit. And then I also think it's important for managers to have a really good knowledge and training of the resources available to them. I know we keep using that word throughout this podcast. However, resource utilization is key and so not all managers are familiar with what is available to them within their own organization. And that is, that is very important.

Karen Batson:

Well, I think this is a really good note to end our conversation on. Um , so thank you both very much for joining us. I really appreciate your time as we kind of talk through this really important topic.

Melissa Michuda:

You're welcome.

Paula Aznavoorian-Barry:

Thank you so much for having us and I hope everybody stays safe to everyone listening.

Karen Batson:

Thank you for joining us. We will continue to cover topics that help employers and their employees navigate through this new environment. So be sure to subscribe to Lincoln Absence Advisor on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Disclosure:

Please remember that our content is advisory only. The information contained in this podcast is for general use and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney or your human resource professional. Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates, the Lincoln National Life Insurance company, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lincoln Life and annuity company of New York, Syracuse, New York, and Lincoln Life Assurance Company of Boston, Dover, New Hampshire. The Lincoln National Life insurance company does not solicit business in New York, nor is it licensed to do so. Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.