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  • Writer's pictureKristen Herring-Asleson

Fear & Stress and Missing Work

What? Another quarantine? How long will you be gone this time? Sound familiar in these times of COVID-19?

It sure does, and these thoughts are not only running through manager’s minds, but employees’ as well.

No matter what position you hold within a company, everyone is affected.

There is a different “feeling” surrounding those who need to miss work due to COVID.

This isn’t an employee missing work because they are stressed out and need a mental health day. This isn’t a working mom who has to stay home because of a child’s illness. This isn’t a manager taking yet another vacation. These reasons may cause some eye-rolling and people muttering, “come on, we have work to do.”

COVID seems to be a mutually understood need to miss work.

Representing a small business, Sherry shared, “My philosophy is "family first. Sick employees should stay home. When parents are worried about their child’s well being, they cannot concentrate on tasks at hand. When it comes to COVID exposures, employees need to be able to do what is best for them and their family without the threat of losing their job. Thankfully, technology allows my employees to work from home and set their hours.”

The pandemic adds quite a bit more stress, worry, or an overwhelming feeling to all employees, managers and business owners alike.

According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of Americans are feeling nervous, anxious or on edge at least one to two days a week. Of those, 60% are having difficulty sleeping, and 48% feel as if they are struggling with depression. Those are staggering statistics that also show individuals are not alone in this.

However, there are some feelings of anger and frustration amongst employees as well. For instance, a working mother I know was diagnosed with COVID, and the response of her daycare’s policy for her son’s return was not what she expected: “Your child will have to be out for 24 days, or you can test him on day 15, and he can return on day 16 with a negative test.”

No matter how she tried to add up test dates, symptoms appearing dates, and any other combination of quarantine suggestions, this did not make sense. Afterall, by now, most of us have the CDC guidelines for quarantine memorized. Ultimately, she missed 24 days of work, and that alone created stress and anxiety, not to mention added to the workload of her fellow employees.

We all may feel lucky to have a job right now, but none of this is easy to handle, or easily understood.

“It would be unrealistic to think anyone is going about their daily life unaffected by the current COVID situation," executive coach Jennifer Thornton said. “Responses to stress may be different for everyone. While some may find comfort in seeking out a sense of purpose or a new project, others may come to realize they need to make some changes or take time off to cope with this new normal.”

It is important, therefore, that every person understands their own reaction to this fear and handle it accordingly for themselves. Everyone is different from one another, so everyone’s solution will most likely be as well.

When you need to talk to someone within your organization about your concerns and reactions, do not call your boss in tears, or quit because you were temporarily overwhelmed with anxiety. Thornton says do not wait until you are at a breaking point. Instead, have an early and honest conversation about your needs.

Just remember, if you aren’t healthy for yourself, you aren’t healthy for anyone else.

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