The daily routine in German companies: Many are put into home office mode, management and top management rush virtually from one corona call to the next in order 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 decline, 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 which, in this crisis, make use of the support of ABO psychologists (occupational, industrial and organisational psychologists) are at a clear advantage over their competitors.

Corona crisis: psychological strain for companies and employees

In “normal” times, ABO psychologists (occupational, industrial and organisational psychologists, or industrial psychologists for short) are concerned with, among other things, carrying out the legally prescribed risk assessment of psychological stress in companies. They also provide operational support in matters of 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 in Germany since the post-war period, which has set in motion considerable processes of change at all levels in a very short time – outcome unknown. Right now, companies need support in optimally combining all their strengths, managing stress in the best possible way, overcoming employee fears and remaining resilient in order to survive the crisis.

Acute workshops for employees or managers

But how can ABO psychologists act when 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 conducts individual consultation hours for employees, staff and management, for example by video or telephone. Here, employees and managers can talk to ABO psychologists about their fears and challenges in a protected room and thus receive professional support. It is guaranteed that there are no unwanted and invisible listeners on either side and that data protection is not violated. In addition, the industrial psychologists offer small acute workshops for employees or managers on resilience, work-life balance and leadership issues – in digital form and with content individually tailored to the wishes of the participants.

It is essential that in times like these, managers set an example in many ways. However, managers are rarely born, but need support in their development just like the workforce. Who has 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? Such support can best be provided by an ABO-psychologist who can help them, for example, by calling them into management meetings (e.g. via Skype, telephone, etc.) to directly deal with questions and uncertainties of the managers. Alternatively, the managers also have the possibility to be coached individually by the industrial psychologists on leadership topics in the current situation.

Occupational health and safety: managers as role models

It is essential that managers who hold (or will soon hold) 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 for 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 greater the probability that employees will accept these rules and implement them themselves. Here, too, an ABO psychologist can provide valuable support and help managers to implement this role model function in the best possible way and to find the appropriate tone to sanction a violation effectively.

Designing the home office sensibly

In the context of the corona crisis, individual topics can suddenly become more important that 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. ABO psychologists support the company via webinars and Skype conferences in setting binding rules for both sides for a successful home office, so that employees don’t get bogged down between work and home, but also don’t lose sight of business goals. In addition, ABO 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.

Keeping in touch with 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 ABO 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 rumours which additionally fuel fears and anxiety and further reduce productivity should be nipped in the bud, e.g. by the company providing transparent information about the current situation of the company, which planned measures the management is planning and which and the reasons for this are disclosed.
Even managers, on the other hand, are not free from the fear of losing control and dealing with resistance in the workforce. For them, professional ABO psychological support from an ABO psychologist can provide exactly the guard rail they need to remain a good manager and navigate the company safely through the storm in the context of crisis management.

Concrete support offers: Impulse letter and crisis hotline

What is important in the current crisis in the interaction between employees and management and how ABO psychologists can help companies to remain functional – we at TÜV Rheinland have been thinking about this intensively. Interested companies can contact AMD TÜV Arbeitsmedizinische Dienste directly, request our regular Impulsletter #gemeindurchdiekrise (German only) with current recommendations on occupational psychology or a crisis hotline for their employees and managers. The hotline is manned by industrial psychologists, among others; the callers can – while maintaining confidentiality – talk about everything that moves them in this crisis and discuss solution steps with the experts.
Contact and further information: gemeinsamdurchdiekrise@de.tuv.com (Gemany only).

Stay healthy!

Author

Iris Dohmen

Iris Dohmen

Psychologist

Iris Dohmen is the head of work, industrial and organisational psychology at TÜV Rheinland. The graduate psychologist has been working nationwide in corporate psychology for 20 years. She analyses psychological stress, advises on the subject of “healthy leadership” and is available to assist employees and managers in word and deed. Iris Dohmen lives in Berlin. Her heart beats for the Münsterland, Great Britain, the Opera and the BVB Borussia Dortmund.

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