· Features

Strexit: How to support worried employees

Keep a close eye on your staff so that post-referendum anxiety doesn't spiral out of control

Employers will be facing many questions about how business is going to proceed following the referendum vote to leave the EU. Larger organisations will have already planned for the outcome and, for some, in the short term Brexit may mean cuts in research and development, training, benefits and even jobs. Smaller businesses may be hard-pressed too – and face a situation made more challenging by their relative lack of resources.

One thing is certain. Employees will be concerned for their jobs – in the near future and beyond – and if you are a European working in Britain you may be feeling alienated.

Whatever the future brings, uncertainty is neither good for business nor its employees. But this is no time for employers to bury their heads. They need to communicate openly and honestly with their people as staff who are kept in the loop will feel more engaged and less anxious about the road ahead. Involving employees in decision-making can be a big boost to morale, co-operation and performance.

Line managers will need to up their vigilance; watching for tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety such as higher absence, poor quality work, loss of creativity, increased conflict and deteriorating relationships. Line managers also need to look after themselves to ensure they don’t become casualties of uncertainty, squeezed between the demands of senior management to implement change and those of supporting their teams and colleagues.

At this time, employers would do well to support workers through resilience training as well as make the most of psychological support mechanisms such as employee assistance programmes (which offer confidential counselling) and occupational health services.

Helping people to become more resilient and learn how to draw upon their inner strengths should help them to resist the adverse effects of stress. A better understanding of the physical and psychological reactions to stress will also help them to cope more effectively should they find themselves feeling under pressure.

For employees who find things overwhelming organisations should act positively and sensitively, referring them for suitable professional support from their NHS GP or, where available, the company’s healthcare plan, employee assistance programme and/or occupational health service. And the sooner the better – before what should be a manageable situation spirals out of control.

Eugene Farrell is head of trauma support services for AXA PPP healthcare