How do crisis and stress affect your team?

28.05.2020

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Staying positive when panic is about to affect your team

The need to transfer employees to remote work appeared to be one of the reasons to get stressed - businesses have to make such a transition to avoid losses and try to keep it going for as long as required. Although teleworking has been around for many years, many didn’t even dare to experience it, and our life made us do so. Nevertheless, there are several inspirational points.

Cost-cutting and increasing employee loyalty

Any company has to spend money to organise comfortable office life. The entry level expenses include utility costs (every day), cleaning (three times a week), garbage removal (all year round), and you would need to pay the rent.

Employees, working remotely, save money too: they don’t buy lunches and don’t pay for public transport or petrol. For any resident of a big city, this is a quality-of-life improvement: employees have at least two hours of life daily that they can spend with their families. Unattainable luxury in office life – 30-60 extra minutes of sleep. Under the circumstances, when businesses do not have the opportunity to increase or even pay salaries, this is quite a win-win situation.

The crisis continues to develop, people live in tension and fear of tomorrow. People got used to spend one-third of a day at work and whether they go to work or stay at home this anxiety doesn’t leave them. What risks does this entail for business and how to deal with them?

Old strategies 

A crisis is a stress situation in which people act using old strategies. Reactions to events are simplified, instincts of self-preservation get awakened. Three reaction patterns are triggered: “freeze”, run away and hit.

Most people choose to freeze - they just wait for difficult times to pass. These people seem to ignore problems and do not fundamentally change their living habits and workstyle. When taking difficult decisions, they rely on experience and, overall, follow the path of least resistance.

Another part of people prefers to act, they choose to hit or to run away. Those who run away complain about life, panic and begin to look for simpler and faster ways to earn money. Those who choose to hit usually try to solve their problems, make difficult decisions, eliminate difficulties, try to live and work adapting to the crisis, but there are few of them.

Tension might result in the expectation of negative scenarios at work: people are afraid of corporate downsizing, cuts in salaries, layoffs, even if there are no prerequisites for this. And then some just hope for the best and pretend that everything is fine, others - they spread panic in a team and look for ways to play safe, and there are those who try to save or even get bonuses from the current situation.

Action!

How do crisis and stress affect employee performance? There are several negative scenarios: 

1.    The employees’ performance is impacted. The desire to develop creative, innovative solutions disappears and the desire to be safe, to avoid problems and risks dominates. Familiar behavior strategies are triggered. Some employees can get so “frozen” that even standard work will be performed at minimum speed. The wait-and-see strategy is not in the organisation’s favor, because at that time competitors can use the crisis to break through.
2.    Working at home can be perceived by some staffers as a mini vacation. Not all employees understand that working from home and working in the office require the same approach. And the previous productivity may come to naught: the employee will be more often distracted, do personal things, and family may decide that remote work is something like a free schedule. Of course, this behavior is not common to everyone. However, unexpected freedom and relaxation can negatively affect an organisation’s plans.
3.    Secondary things become even less significant. And if, for example, an employee used to be careless about information security rules, then in a crisis situation this attitude will only intensify. The logic is simple, this does not apply to my job responsibilities, which means that these are other people's problems. This is not an intentional sabotage, but certainly is an additional risk for a company. Indeed, during the crisis, the number of cyber threats is growing, especially with the use of social engineering: fraudsters spread malicious links through fake newsletters, use false addresses of official organisations, and draw out personal and payment data.
4.    Panic is growing and spreading fast. Most often, several people in any team are very sensitive to negative information and give in easily to anxious mood and pass it on to others. It is difficult to say in advance, in which department an employee can bring panic to the table. But if, for example, it’s a sales department, then in a difficult financial situation it can even knock the company down, scaring managers with bad forecast, “No one will buy anything else … They will soon begin to cut everything … Customers will go to competitors, because it’s cheaper, etc.”
5.    Employees are looking for a plan B even if it is harmful for an organisation. When a person is threatened to become unemployed due to a crisis, even if there are no real reasons, an employee can build a safety net. In addition, some employees can use criminal methods: sell a customer base to competitors, leak trade secrets leakage or sell personal data on the dark web. If employees used to do something like that, then in a crisis they might become even more zealous.


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