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The Soft Skills Leaders are Learning to Keep Employees Happy and on Track Every employee is dealing with a different and unique situation, so leaders should practice these skills in order to help eliminate anxieties and improve focus.

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When the Covid-19 health crisis set in, business leaders and managers quickly implemented work-from-home procedures and policies for keeping both employees and customers safe while working together in-person. While those changes were necessary, what's often overlooked are the issues that employees may have to deal with beyond their work projects and deadlines.

Some employees have had to take on roles such as caretakers or teachers in addition to their full-time job responsibilities, while others are struggling with increased debt and stress. Managers need to be mindful of the additional challenges impacting their workforce right now and focus on using and improving these three soft skills to help employees feel supported and set their teams up for success.

Lead with empathy.

Many employees have been experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety due to the uncertainties of this pandemic, says Adele Spallone, a licensed behavioral health counselor and vice president of clinical operations at The Hartford. "Depression, anxiety and burnout has been on the rise, and these struggles can create a disengaged workforce," she says. "Employees need to know that their leaders can empathize with them." Each and every employee's situation is different, and leaders should make the effort to consider things from their employees' point of view.

"Leaders need to ask themselves, "if these things were happening to me, how would I feel or what would I be going through,'" Spallone says.

It cannot stop with reflection, though. Leaders need to use their sense of empathy to create actions, gestures or accommodations that can help alleviate the stresses of their employees. From something as simple as offering to discuss their concerns, connecting them to available wellness programs, adjusting their work schedules or providing personal time off, leaders can demonstrate that they are genuinely mindful of their employees' well-being.

Be flexible.

As aforementioned, every employee is dealing with a unique situation, so leaders should exercise flexibility with the needs of their workforce.

"If and where it's possible, employers can continue to make working from home an option, offer flexible working hours — especially for those taking care of kids or ill family members — or offer job-sharing duties to show their employees that they can be flexible and creative in regards to their needs," Spallone suggests.

Employees can feel valued and appreciated if they know that leaders are willing to adjust workload or schedules to their unprecedented life changes.

Be an active listener.

Often times, people listen without truly hearing what the other person is saying. Active listening requires one to fully concentrate and make an effort to understand what someone else is discussing with them.

Making active listening a priority can help leaders connect with their employees, reinforcing their sense of acknowledgement and empathy with their employees' situations. It can also help employees feel more comfortable and affirmed in their communications with leaders.

Some key things to keep in mind when active listening:

  • Look at the speaker directly if you're able to connect via video or in person
  • Avoid mentally preparing rebuttals
  • When meeting face-to-face, use facial or physical motions to indicate that you are listening
  • Periodically summarize the speaker's statements
  • Allow the speaker to finish before asking questions or offering feedback
  • Treat the speaker how you would like to be treated

"Employees are a company's greatest asset, and that is why, when you are amidst a crisis like this pandemic, it is so incredibly important to be empathetic, flexible and to really listen to your employees' needs," Spallone says. "Continue to ask questions and acknowledge their feelings and you will be will on your way to eliminating anxieties and improving productivity."

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