5 Easy Ways to Give Your Employees Emotional Support During Difficult Times (Like Now)

5 Easy Ways to Give Your Employees Emotional Support During Difficult Times (Like Now)

Share This Page To:

If you are anything like me, you probably think you are doing just fine in the midst of this COVID-19 crisis.

Yes, it’s scary and unsettling…but I can handle a lot and while it is stressful – I’m doing just fine.

Just ask anyone…except maybe my son, who saw me get scratchy with him for a teasing comment he made.

Also, don’t ask my co-worker who wrote an email providing constructive feedback that I took personally.

And don’t ask my significant other who saw me burst into tears after listening to a song on the radio. (It wasn’t just any song…it was a country song about dying…who wouldn’t cry, right?)

Maybe you are seeing others around you react and behave in uncommon ways too:

  • I watched two colleagues snap at each other in a meeting and they’ve been friends for years
  • Another colleague said he’s apologized twice this week to two other co-workers and doesn’t know what has gotten into him

The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic affects us all differently, and emotionally we’re all in different stages of dealing with this crisis.

How do we help each other, our employees and our company culture during this difficult and overwhelming time?

1. Give each other a pass

An executive at a company I work with said, “We have to give ourselves, and each other, a ‘pass.’”

The “pass” they were referring to? It’s another way of saying we need to practice forgiveness in a variety of ways:

  • Give your colleagues and employees the benefit of the doubt
  • Internalize that everyone you interact with is struggling to work and live in this difficult time, and in ways we may never fully know or understand
  • Assume that everyone is acting from a place of good intentions; when someone acts in an atypical way toward you, avoid taking it personally
  • Show patience and compassion toward ourselves and others

2. Check in

My people leader kicked off a recent one-on-one conversation by just asking me how I was doing in the midst of all this.

It seems like such a small thing, but it was surprisingly helpful. As I started to talk with her, it became clear how much was occupying my thinking and my emotions. After just naming what was on my mind, I felt calmer, clearer and better able to focus on other things.

My manager didn’t try to fix anything – she just listened.

This is an easy gift all leaders can give their people, and it only takes a few minutes.

3. Practice mindfulness and deep breathing

Before COVID-19, I went to New Jersey to meet with a client.

She had been running from meeting to meeting all day. When we sat down, she suggested we take 2 minutes before we started:

  • Close our eyes
  • Clear our minds
  • Take a few deep breaths

Research has shown that relaxation techniques like deep breathing counter our bodies’ response to stress, including work-related stress.

Starting or ending meetings with a few minutes of quiet time and deep breathing not only encourages self-care with your staff, it can also bring tangible relief to the stress we are all carrying right now.

4. Encourage gratitude

We live in a world where pain and tragedy dominate our news media. This is particularly true during times of crisis like COVID-19.

Add on the fact that people are consuming more media while quarantined, and it’s clear that we could easily spiral into despair.

While we can’t control our colleagues’ media consumption habits, we can take small steps to try to positively influence everyone’s outlook.

Ending meetings by asking employees to share one thing they feel grateful for helps us pause our minds briefly to be present and appreciative. This temporary shift in focus can provide a well-needed infusion of positive vibes.

5. Remind employees to practice self-care

Under stress, it’s natural to feel like we should be doing more, whether out of:

  • Gratitude for still having a job while unemployment climbs to over 15%
  • Fear that we’ll join the jobless ranks if we don’t do more than ever to show that we’re indispensable

Under the best of circumstances, many of us struggle to take care of ourselves, opting instead to worry and care for everyone else. These are not the best of circumstances, and it’s more important than ever to be sure we are taking time to care for ourselves.

When leaders encourage and model self-care, it gives employees permission to do the same. Let employees know:

  • In these circumstances, we are all going to be less productive
  • You want them to take breaks to exercise, give time and attention to their children and loved ones and get more rest
  • Ways you are practicing self-care

Your encouragement will go a long way to supporting this important need.

For more ideas and examples of how to lead effectively during the coronavirus pandemic, visit our COVID-19 resource hub.


Laurie Minott

Laurie Minott is a Partner at Great Place to Work®. Laurie consults and coaches CEOs, CHROs and executive leadership teams on advancing business performance and culture change through strategies and solutions that create great workplaces for all.  She has deep experience leading successful organizational change and was previously an executive in an organization that successfully built a high-performing culture and achieved recognition on Fortune’s Best Companies in Health Care® list. 

Get your Company Certified

Certification is affordable, easy, and can be completed in as few as three weeks.


To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.