One of the simplest yet most powerful interventions to manage social stress in a situation like the coronavirus is to provide outlets for individuals to communicate with peers. Unfortunately, the norm for many people during a crisis like this is to turn inward rather than reach out for support (especially with the requirements of social distancing). This leads to some self-blame (e.g., why didn’t I see this coming and do things like stock up on toilet paper while I had the chance or why didn’t I take that sabbatical last year when I had that chance) along with maladaptive behaviors ranging from substance abuse to being too proud to sign up for legitimate aid like unemployment insurance (a topic I discussed recently on KCBS in San Francisco).
My own published research shows how these forums have psychological and behavioral benefits even for those who simply listen to others (i.e., employees don’t have to speak up to received benefits; knowing others are going through what you are going through is hugely helpful).
This could be a one-time workshop or a weekly intervention during the course of the crisis. It will be of immediate benefit by providing a safe forum for employees to express the concerns, discuss their situations, and share their fears hopes. And, it will provide longer-term benefits to the organization and its people by providing practical tools for managing personal and social stress during the coronavirus and beyond.
Symbolically, this will demonstrate to employees that their employer is still thinking about and caring about them and their well being. More substantially, this will be a welcoming resource providing both information and emotional support to your people.
The logistics of this activity are extremely flexible. It can be conducted with large or small groups. Some organizations like to bring all departments together. Others like provide a session for each department. There is no “right or wrong” approach; research shows that doing something is better than doing nothing.
As a Ph.D, in Organizational Psychology and someone who has advised in over 100 organizations worldwide (corporate, government and not-for-profit), bring both scientific knowledge and practical application to this program. I can provide a “lecture” of the social psychological aspects of the coronavirus crisis and self-quarantine along with the participative forum.
Please note that some organizations like to separate participants by level. That is, they prefer to have senior leadership in one session, managers and supervisors in another, and other employees in a third. They do this so that lower-level employees won’t feel inhibited by the presence of superiors (“can I really speak up about my concerns when I boss is listening in?) And, one of the benefits of have separate sessions for managers and supervisors is that we can discuss how to manage their team members during this and future crises. We have proven and practical tools for team leaders to use.