Supporting your employees
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Supporting your employees through a time of uncertainty

Since the UK public woke up last Friday, it’s been in for a bumpy ride. Political upheaval, a divided nation and shocks to the market have defined a week where every breaking story seems to top the last. Rumours about restructuring of some of the world’s largest banks, speculation about job losses, and panicked stories about financial services passporting have been flooding the press.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, a mood of uncertainty has spread through the UK’s banking industry. Though the outcome may be far less drastic than predictions suggest, the ‘what-ifs’ can sound deafening to bank employees reading the news right now. The threat of change is hanging over the UK’s financial sector, and the 2.2 million people working in it are already living in its shadow.

Stress and wellbeing in the banking sector

Supporting your employees’ wellbeing at a time like this is critical. Undeniably, the banking sector has gone through huge change in recent years. While this has to some extent forged a resilient sector, it’s also resulted in a workforce with a higher susceptibility to stress and a perceived lack of control at work. Our research shows that psychological wellbeing and engagement are lower for bank employees than for the average worker in the UK.

It’s likely that the tangible impact of the UK’s vote to leave the EU will be some time coming; major shifts won’t happen overnight. However, the media seems to be largely dealing in speculation right now, and the sense of unease and lack of control this kind of environment can engender in employees is a real and immediate threat.

When your sector is facing so much uncertainty, what can you do to support your staff?

Supporting your team when they need it most

In a largely uncontrollable environment, it’s important to focus on the things you can control. Taking a few simple steps can make a big difference to your team’s perceptions of their situation at work, which will greatly impact on their wellbeing in the short-term.

Here are four ways you can help:

  1. Check in
    One of the most important things during a time like this is to use the relationships you’ve built with your team to regularly check in and see how they’re doing. Have conversations to find out what people are feeling most stressed or unsure about, and try to identify anyone on your team who’s struggling with uncomfortable levels of stress or anxiety.
  1. Broadcast resources
    Make yourself aware of your bank’s internal resources for helping employees in crisis, and then ensure your team knows where they can go for help. Communicate the contact details for your organisation’s employee assistance programme who will be able to offer confidential (and likely round-the-clock) help to any of your employees who need it.
  1. Make no assumptions
    Don’t assume that because you know the latest developments from head office your team does too. Talk up and talk down to make sure that everyone remains as informed as possible and to prevent rumours being the only information that’s traded. When changes are communicated to you, disseminate them as clearly as you can: ambiguity is the enemy of communication.
  1. Communicate availability
    It is absolutely within your ability to control the lines of communication between you and your staff. Make sure your team know they can come and talk to you when they want to. You don’t have to have all the answers: people pick up on intention, and they’ll appreciate you having a sense of openness and giving them clarity about what you do know about any situation that’s unfolding.

When the game changes in such a big way it’s common to feel like things are beyond your control. By careful management of what lies within your sphere of influence you can help ease your employees’ fears in this time of uncertainty.