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Helping Employees Through Stressful Times

By Nancy Owen, PHR, Senior HR Consultant, East Coast Risk Management 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been blamed for an increase in physical and emotional stress many people have reported over the past 17 months. Adults and children alike are facing challenges that can be overwhelming. Public health actions, such as social distancing, masks, and quarantines, are believed necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19; however, they can make people feel isolated and lonely, increasing stress and anxiety.

In the workplace, stress can negatively impact employee and organizational performance. It can lead to high error rates, poor quality of work, and high staff turnover. It can also result in absenteeism due to anxiety, depression, emotional disorders, other illnesses, and work life imbalance.


If you’d like to help your employees get through this tough time, it is important to know the common work-related factors that can add to stress during a pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), any one of your employees may be dealing multiple issues, such as:

  • Concern about the risk of being exposed to the virus at work
  • Taking care of personal and family needs while working
  • Managing a different workload
  • Lack of access to the tools and equipment needed to perform a job
  • Guilt about not being on the front line or a feeling that they are not contributing enough to work
  • Uncertainty about the future of their workplace and/or employment
  • Learning new communication tools and dealing with technical difficulties
  • Adapting to a different workspace and/or work schedule

 Help your employees manage work-related stress:

  • If you have an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or any mental health and counseling services available, get that information to your employees.
  • If you don’t already have an EAP, consider making mental health resources available in the workplace.
  • Remind employees of any mental health benefits that may be included in their insurance plans.
  • Implement flexible sick leave policies and practices.
  • Allow employees to communicate with their coworkers and supervisors about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet).
  • Talk openly with employees about how the pandemic is affecting work.
  • Encourage your employees to take advantage of stress-management webinars, wellness tips, or programs, like yoga or meditation classes.

 Share these helpful tips from the CDC with your employees:

  • Communicate with your coworkers and supervisors about job stress.
    • Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
    • Talk openly about how the pandemic is affecting work. Expectations should be communicated clearly by everyone.
  • Identify those things which you do not have control over and do the best you can with the resources available to you.
  • Increase your sense of control by developing a consistent daily routine when possible — ideally one that is similar to your schedule before the pandemic.
    • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
    • Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.
    • Spend time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.
    • If you work from home, set a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible.
    • Practice mindfulness techniques, like meditation.
    • Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
  • Know the facts about COVID-19. Be informed about how to protect yourself and others. Understanding the risk and sharing accurate information with people you care about can reduce stress and help you make a connection with others.
  • Remind yourself that each of us has a crucial role in fighting this pandemic.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is in an unusual situation with limited resources.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns, how you are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting you.
    • Connect with others through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chat, and social media.
    • Check on others. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem. Look for safe ways to offer social support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, such as depression and anxiety.
  • If you feel you may be misusing alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs) as a means of coping, reach out for help.
  • If you are being treated for a mental health condition, continue with your treatment and be aware of any new or worsening symptoms.

Share these helpful resources with your employees:

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.
  2. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224 or text “START” to 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or connect online.
  3. National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453. Or connect online.
  4. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or connect online.
  5. Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1, or text 838255. Or connect online
  6. The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY Instructions
  7. Visit to find government benefits related to unemployment assistance, healthcare, and food and nutrition.
  8. Call 211 for local resources. Or visit or to search for local resources online.
  9. Find your local food bank at

If you are an employer with questions about any safety, workers’ compensation, or human resources issue, contact East Coast Risk Management by calling 724-864-8745 or emailing us at We will be happy to help!

Disclaimer: The information provided on this web site is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Use of and access to this Web site do not create an attorney-client relationship between East Coast Risk Management or our employment law attorney and the user or browser.