The ripple effect of job loss in Australia and what HR teams can do to restore confidence

Where possible, make counselling services available or increase access to existing services. Make it clear to all employees that HR has an open door and that all staff should feel confident to speak candidly with the team about how they’re faring, including feelings of anxiety and stress, or difficulty delivering on their work, writes Jay Munro, Senior Marketing Manager, Indeed

No one would deny that the COVID-19 pandemic has had extensive and devastating effects on Australia’s economy and large sections of the workforce. However, new research from Indeed has revealed the impact of COVID-19 on a person’s wellbeing isn’t limited to those who have lost their job or had their hours reduced. Rather, job loss has had a ripple effect on the entire workforce.

The negative effects of job loss are far reaching
Indeed’s recent survey of Australian workers found that the impact of knowing someone who has lost their job is significant. Individuals who personally know someone who’s lost their job are considerably more likely to feel increased levels of stress and anxiety (60 per cent), feel more isolated working from home (67 per cent), and be more concerned about job security (51 per cent). Furthermore, nearly half (49 per cent) of those who know someone who’s lost their job say they feel they need to over-deliver in order to stay employed, and 45 per cent also report finding it harder to concentrate.

People of different ages and backgrounds have a different perspective of mental wellbeing and will respond differently when asked how they’re feeling. Some individuals will be honest and upfront, others may be offended, while for some it could be triggering.

In addition to this, exposure to job loss in a work context also has a profound effect on individuals’ ability to deliver on their work. One in two people working in environments where staff had been laid off said they found it more difficult to concentrate on work tasks, and over a third (35 per cent) of those exposed to staff cutbacks around them said they felt less confident in their ability to deliver work.

It’s not all bad news though
Employers and HR teams will understandably be concerned about the far-reaching effects of job loss, however in some good news for businesses, the majority of Australian workers (70 per cent) said they felt their employer had taken every step possible to avoid layoffs during the pandemic. Also, more than 6 in 10 (65 per cent) said they felt their employer took the emotional wellbeing of staff seriously, and 59 per cent thought their employer had made every effort to support their emotional wellbeing.

These findings will help put businesses in good stead to rebuild, however leaders and HR teams still have an important role to play in boosting employee confidence and morale in the months, and even years, ahead.

What HR can do to support staff’s wellbeing
One of the most important things that HR departments can do to support staff — many of whom will be feeling the effects of job loss via colleagues, family, partners or friends — is to ensure your organisation is equipped to have respectful and supportive conversations around mental wellbeing with no stigma attached.

People of different ages and backgrounds have a different perspective of mental wellbeing and will respond differently when asked how they’re feeling. Some individuals will be honest and upfront, others may be offended, while for some it could be triggering.

Investing in mental first aid training for HR and managers is a great way to ensure you and your team are equipped to sensitively check in with employees and to respond appropriately to them if they say they’re having a difficult time, without making things worse.

Where possible, make counselling services available or increase access to existing services. Make it clear to all employees that HR has an open door and that all staff should feel confident to speak candidly with the team about how they’re faring, including feelings of anxiety and stress, or difficulty delivering on their work.

One in two people working in environments where staff had been laid off said they found it more difficult to concentrate on work tasks, and over a third (35 per cent) of those exposed to staff cutbacks around them said they felt less confident in their ability to deliver work.

How to rebuild confidence
Beyond supporting staff in their mental wellbeing, there are a number of measures HR can take to help restore confidence and morale after what’s been a tumultuous and trying year for many. Some of these include ensuring the whole organisation strictly adheres to public health recommendations as we return to the workplace, being flexible where possible regarding working arrangements, regularly updating the team with new information as it becomes available, and being transparent regarding the health of the business.

This year has been the most difficult on record for many businesses, and while the effects of COVID-19 on Australia’s workforce have been far-reaching, employers and HR teams have cause to be proud of how they’ve navigated the pandemic. The majority of workers feel their employer has acted ethically and in staff’s best interests, therefore with continued care and support, businesses and their employees are in a strong position to rebuild and recover.

Image Source: Pexels