How can managers help employees handle stress, anxiety amid Hamas war?


Many Israeli employees are working harder than ever, struggling with heavy workloads due to a shortage of manpower and being overcome by fatigue, anxiety, frustration, and hardship as a result of the war against Hamas. Others are fearful of joining the 100,000 workers in having to go on leave without pay without any estimate of when they can return to their jobs. 

The Israel Institute for Safety and Hygiene (IIOSH) has issued advice to managers on how to help and support employees in the workplace during this wartime situation. 

In the current state of emergency that no one can predict when it will end, it’s important to maintain the continuity of operations and provide for the essential needs of workers and for workplaces to enable sustained physical and mental resilience.

Managers need to manage the risks while understanding that work is carried out in the shadow of the loss, pain, anxiety, and fatigue experienced by workers. Almost everyone in the country knows people who have been murdered, taken hostage, wounded, or have sent sons, husbands, wives, and other relatives to battle as reservists or as soldiers in the regular army. 

This situation raises the risk of work incidents, errors, and health issues, both occupational and mental. It is estimated that this situation will persist for an extended period, so we must prepare and plan how to maintain the physical and mental well-being of workers and be ready for the day when workplaces return to their regular routines, IIOSH said. 

How can you manage high levels of stress in your day-to-day life? (illustrative) (credit: PEXELS)

Sometimes, workers find it difficult to take breaks and relax due to a strong sense of responsibility or the need to perform work under difficult conditions, so it is crucial to create conditions that allow, encourage, and even require employees to take breaks to rest. Short breaks will restore energy in employees so they can perform better. 

How to help employees manage stress in a time of war

These are tips for employers:

  • Ensure that workers eat at appropriate times for their shifts and stress healthful eating, especially during longer shifts and at night when hot, nutritious meals may not be available.
  • Provide security to employees in the workplace. Maintain safety regulations and instructions to prevent accidents and harm.
  • Communicate with employees, ask them how they and their families feel, and if there are problems, offer technical assistance, flexible work hours, or other solutions to reduce stress and ease their worries.
  • Explain the importance of work stoppages and rest to employees and managers. Create a suitable space that allows for quiet, short breaks and breathing exercises, ensuring safety and comfort, without distractions.
  • Managers should assess the risks in work processes and give priority to vital tasks, including what can be postponed for quieter periods. To prevent errors, train employees before each task and ensure they understand the instructions. In situations with new functions at work, maintain an updated notice board with tasks and instructions for everyone to stay informed.
  • Clear and concise communication is essential, along with employee verification that they understand their responsibilities, have the knowledge, skills, tools, and resources required for the tasks, and ensure that no conflicting tasks are assigned. Priority should be given to certain tasks.

Dr. Miki Winkler, director of IIOSH, called on all managers and employees to use the advice and guidance services provided by the institute to work under emergency conditions. Safety instructors will be available to assess risks and cope with them in workplaces in preparation for emergency situations. This approach will help safeguard the health of workers and ensure the continued functionality of the Israeli economy in the current situation and in the days after the war. 

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