Career Advice Workplace Professional Development

Supporting Coworkers During COVID

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By: Xiaofan Gao
Oct 18, 2020 • 7 min read

Supporting Coworkers During COVID

The next time you’re at a meeting, scroll through the attendees, and count how many people look happy.  COVID has done a number on many people. For some, it’s a struggle concentrating and getting work done at home. For others, it’s the stress of being laid off as companies continue making cuts for budget relief. Non-work related reasons can also play into employees’ emotions. During this time, it is essential that supporting coworkers ranks as a top priority. 

supporting coworkers

Be Aware of Your Environment

Staring into your laptop for eight hours straight and then being stuck inside your house, 90% of the time isn’t going to cheer anyone up, that’s for sure. On the off chance that you can go outside, you can’t even talk to anyone without fear of catching the virus. You can’t see anyone’s face, and it’s harder to hear what people are saying due to masks serving as an essential barrier. The only contact you have is your friends and family, and they can’t even visit all the time. Yeah, life is rough and tough now, so make sure to check up on and support your coworkers every once in a while. Here are some ways you can do so.

More to explore: How to practice mindfulness in the workplace 

Let Them Know You’re Available

It is likely that anyone who needs support won’t be approaching you, as their mentality of not wanting to bother others prevents them from doing so. Trust me, I’ve been there before. That’s why you should always take the first step. It doesn’t have to be anything too flashy. Take a few minutes to send a simple email or message them on whatever communication channels your company uses. Something along the lines of the sample message below would suffice. 

Hey [Coworker Name],

How have you been? Last week, you looked under the weather. Are you feeling better now? Regardless, feel free to reach out to me whenever. I’m usually available during [time range], but I can make room on my schedule. Just let me know!

All the best,

[Your Name]

supporting coworkers

Stay in Touch

If you meet once or twice, that’s great, but to keep the momentum going, try to stay in touch as much as possible. Check-in on your coworkers every week or two by emailing or messaging them. It doesn’t have to be a pattern either. If a coworker suddenly messages you out of the blue with a request for help or gets something off their shoulders, don’t wait until it’s the “set” time to talk. Respond as soon as possible, and, if needed, set up a video conferencing session with them. 

Ways to stay in touch:

  • Email
  • Stop by coworkers offices to check-in
  • Propose break-time coffee or lunch
  • Stay engaged and ask meaningful questions to show you care

Practice Listening and Empathy 

If you want to help people, listening skills and empathy are crucial elements. Be an active listener by reacting to what the other party is saying, but don’t interrupt them. You can do this with your facial features and body language. For instance, if Person A was venting to Person B, B can encourage smiles, nod, and lean forward to indicate that they’re giving Person A their full attention. 

Guide to Helping Others

Empathy is important because it will help you in helping others. Going back to Person A and Person B, if A looked to B for guidance on how to deal with their family issues, B should put themselves in A’s shoes before giving some suggestions. A’s personality and circumstances will probably be different from Person B, so whatever courses of action that B advises should be based on what A can do. In other words, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think of things from their perspective. 

More to explore: How to return to on-site work after working remotely 

supporting coworkers

Be the Bridge

People who feel down often isolate themselves from the big group. This is a common phenomenon, and whether it happens on purpose or accident doesn’t matter. What does matter is how team members react to their fellow coworkers drifting away. Understanding this is the key to supporting coworkers. 

Signs a coworker may be drifting:

  • Lack of communication
  • Change in attitude
  • Difficulty completing tasks

How you can help:

  • Speak up and advocate for drifting coworkers
  • Propose new plans that alleviate pressure from stressed employees
  • Recognize challenges this person might be facing outside of the workplace
  • Make sure each team member can handle the amount of tasks they are given

Allow Relaxation

When people are going through tough times, the relief of knowing they have less to do does wonders for their mental health. Think of it as like those times in college when your professor announced that an assignment was optional and not mandatory. The knowledge that you have less on your plate allows you to relax more. When supporting coworkers, make it part of your routine to regularly check-in with teammates.

How to help promote relaxation and stress relief:

  • Build a bridge between work life and personal life
  • Stay connected with the group to promote extra support
  • Delegate tasks accordingly amongst the team

More to explore: How to make the most of your day off 

supporting coworkers

Guide Them to Professional Resources

At the end of the day, you’re not a trained psychologist or therapist. Sure, you can lend your coworkers a hand here and there, but if their issues are beyond your understanding, it’s best to refer them to more professional sources. UNC Health has done a great job compiling mental and emotional health resources for coworkers going through rough times. Many of the ones on this page are hotlines, but there are also links leading to webinars and articles. Feel free to send this to any coworker who needs this, and always be on the lookout for more resources.

We hope these tips can help you support your coworkers. The power of connections and kindness is even more apparent during this tumultuous, life-changing period. There will always be people looking out for you, and, should you need additional support, it will be readily available. Be well, and stay safe.

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