Feeling anxious over coronavirus? This EAP can help

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Employers have placed travel bans and asked sick employees to work remotely in an effort to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus, but what are they doing to help quell growing fears of a global epidemic?

Global EAP provider ComPsych has added a webinar to its existing offerings to specifically address this anxiety. Titled “Coping with Uncertainty about the Coronavirus,” the program teaches strategies for calming fears over catching the disease and connects users with people who are experiencing the same anxiety — or are currently under quarantine.

“Employees are not performing their best if they’re dealing with feelings of isolation, or fears of being quarantined,” says Ken Zuckerberg, vice president of training at ComPsych. “The most helpful thing an employer can do is direct them to resources to help them deal with those feelings.”

The EAP serves 50,000 organizations in 160 countries, including those with people currently under quarantine for coronavirus. Zuckerberg spoke about how ComPsych’s program can help employees build resilience in stressful situations, and why employers shouldn’t ignore fears over the outbreak.

Why do you think it’s important to address workforce anxiety over coronavirus?

When people are experiencing fear, they try to exert control in whatever situation they can, but the results are often destructive. They might lose their temper with their kids or their colleagues — that doesn’t make for a good work environment. We find that managers, in particular, tend to exhibit bullying and micromanaging when stressful situations like this arise — it’s a way for them to reclaim control in uncertain times. Our goal for this program is to help people become more self-aware of these negative behaviors so they can shift to more constructive ones.

How does ComPsych’s program help employees deal with nervousness over the coronavirus?

We are delivering a live interactive training program that teaches people to normalize the feelings of uncertainty you experience when there’s a stressful worldwide event. The program is presented as a live webinar, and there’s a chat function so attendees can talk to each other about what’s going on.

The lessons from the webinar can really be applied to anything in life, but this gives us an opportunity to apply it practically. I think the most impactful exercise on the webinar is when we tell the audience, “If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” During the exercise we have people think about someone in their life who is struggling more than they are, then ask themselves what they can do to help that person. If you take a moment to do that, you realize you’re not helpless because you can help someone else. Someone on the chat shared that their mother lives alone; when she did this exercise she recognized one tangible thing she can do is offer to play online Scrabble with her every night.

Why is there a chat function for webinar attendees?

We felt it was important to press upon people that they’re not alone in their fears. There’s something comforting about talking to people who feel the same way. But we thought it was especially important for people in quarantine since many of them are not simply feeling isolated, they are isolated. We thought it would be really powerful to give them a chance to connect with other people who are experiencing the same thing.

Is there anything employers should take away from this global epidemic?

Employers can look at this global event as a chance to do something constructive with their workforce. Because of what’s going on, employees are paying attention in ways they haven’t before, so this is a perfect time to get a message across about personal development. Many of the skills we teach in the webinar can be applied to everyday life. But people have to be open to learning in order to take those lessons to heart. Right now, your people are willing to hear you — don’t waste this opportunity.

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