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I/O psychologists in times of Corona: now more important than ever

The daily routine in German companies: Many are put into home office mode, executive management and top management virtually rush from one corona call to another to maintain operations or production, not to lose touch with markets or to reassure customers and employees. Employees are – depending on the industry more or less – driven: fear of losing their jobs, fear of material relegation, fear of illness. How is a company supposed to function at all or even be productive under these conditions? The change processes are more massive and dynamic than ever. Companies that secure the support of  I/O psychologists (Industrial and Organizational Psychology) in this crisis have a clear advantage over their competitors.

In “normal” times, I/O psychologists (Industrial and Organizational Psychology) deal, among other things, with carrying out the legally required risk assessment of psychological stress in companies. They also provide operational support in stress management, corporate resilience, and healthy leadership. If you think that this is exactly where you need to make cuts: All these services are more important than ever in the context of the Corona crisis. After all, it is unlikely that there is currently any greater psychological strain for companies and employees than the corona crisis. The pandemic is the greatest challenge for the economy, society and the individual since the post-war period, which has set in motion considerable change processes at all levels in a very short time – outcome unknown. Especially now, companies need support in optimally combining all their strengths, managing stress in the best possible way, overcoming employee fears and remaining resilient to survive the crisis.

Acute workshops for employees or managers

But how can I/O psychologists act if they are no longer allowed to enter companies as external forces and attendance appointments are a thing of the past? Very pragmatic: AMD TÜV Arbeitsmedizinische Dienste offer individual consultation hours for employees and management, for example via video or telephony. Here, employees or managers can talk to I/O psychologists about their fears and challenges in a protected room and receive professional support. This ensures that there are no unwanted and invisible listeners on either side and that data protection is not violated. In addition, the I/O psychologists offer small acute workshops for employees or managers on resilience, work-life balance, leadership topics – in digital form and with content individually tailored to the wishes of the participants.

It is essential that managers set an example in many ways in times like these. However, managers are rarely born but, like the workforce, need support in their development. Who has any experience in dealing with employees who are currently reacting highly emotionally to the corona crisis and may hardly be able to cope with their panic? An I/O psychologist is most suitable to provide such support, for example by promptly joining management meetings (e.g. via Skype, telephone, etc.) to directly address questions and uncertainties of managers. Alternatively, the managers also have the possibility to be coached individually by the industrial psychologists on leadership topics in the current situation.

It is essential that managers who still have (or will soon have again) face-to-face meetings make sure that employees strictly adhere to the basic rules of occupational health and safety, such as regular hand washing, disinfection, and social distancing. That they are in a position to exemplify these rules themselves and to point out violations appropriately and effectively and not simply ignore misconduct. There is evidence from the area of occupational safety: The better the role model function of the manager, the higher the probability that employees will accept these rules and implement them themselves. Here, too, an I/O psychologists can provide valuable support on how best to implement this role model function and find the appropriate tone to effectively sanction a violation.

Making home office meaningful

In the context of the corona crisis, individual topics can suddenly become more important, which a company will hardly be able to manage alone in this exceptional situation: for example, the sensible design of the home office situation and a healthy work-life balance, which is currently a highly topical issue for many employees. I/O psychologists support the company via webinars and Skype conferences in setting binding rules for both sides for a successful home office, so that employees do not get bogged down between work and home, but also do not lose sight of their business goals. In addition, I/O psychologists accompany working parents from the workforce on how they can cope with the challenge of reconciling home office and childcare without burning out completely.

Maintaining a connection to the employees – always

Whether home office or office presence: one of the most essential elements of effective crisis management is regular contact between managers and their employees. An I/O psychologist can advise companies on how best to conduct such discussions and which aspects need to be considered depending on the communication channel. The aim must be to give employees a feeling of security again and to nip rumors which additionally fuel fears and anxiety and further reduce productivity in the bud, e.g. by providing transparent information about the current situation of the company, what measures the management is planning and what the reasons for this are. Managers, on the other hand, are not free from the fear of losing control and dealing with resistance within the workforce. For them, professional support from an I/O psychologist can provide exactly the guard rail they need to remain a good leader and navigate the company safely through the storm in the context of crisis management.

If you would like to learn more about what is important in the current crisis in the interaction between employees and management and how an I/O psychologist can help to keep the company functioning: AMD TÜV Arbeitsmedizinischen Dienste are available for more detailed information.

Companies can send a regular impulse letter #togetherthroughthecrisis with current recommendations on how to deal with the crisis and worries, the home office situation, management topics and much more (chargeable) or request a hotline for their employees and managers. The hotline is staffed by industrial psychologists, among others, and the callers can – while maintaining confidentiality – talk about anything that concerns them in this crisis and discuss solution steps together with the psychologists.
If you have any questions about these services, please contact the Head of the Department of Industrial, Operational and Organizational Psychology at TÜV Rheinland, Dipl.-Psych. Iris Dohmen at abo-psychologie@de.tuv.com
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Iris Dohmen
Iris Dohmen