Motivating stressed-out workers during the pandemic

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Rey Elbo-125


ELBONOMICS: If you can’t pay good money to people, at least treat them well.

I’m the human resource manager of a small factory based in Valenzuela. Many of our workers and some managers are suffering from stress and have become fearful about their health and safety due to the increasing number of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) victims. Our manufacturing setup does not allow working from home. How do we encourage our workers to keep going? — Crying Out Loud

Courage is fear that has been conquered by love for humanity. I’m happy about your concern for your workers and managers who are fearful for their lives during the pandemic. It’s really tough to cope with stress caused by the continued lockdown and the possibility of lost income. Your management should deal with these employee issues as soon as possible. At the very least, your organization should practice the minimum health protocols by shouldering the cost of basic personal protective equipment and asking everyone to wear face masks and face shields while inside the factory. In addition, your company should conduct disinfection activities every hour and in all common areas of the factory, just like what they’re doing in hospitals and other health facilities. These are the minimum standards you should follow before you can even talk about motivating the workers to hold on. In addition, you have to consider the following:


During a pandemic, it’s understandable for everyone to feel worried about other things while still having to perform. Communicating company priorities clearly, following basic health and safety protocols, dealing with the stressful work environment, and following government rules are only some of the challenges that your management may face today or in the near future.

Expect your top management to be on the watch for people (including you) who can handle themselves well under pressure and maintain professionalism. Above all, do your best to reconcile the interests of both labor and management. Don’t get caught up in the “labor” and “management” mentality and proceed as follows:

One, control the controllable situations. Conversely, don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Follow government regulations no matter how much you disagree with them. Try to do whatever is necessary to ensure the health and safety of your factory. If your company can afford it, require the workers to be temporarily accommodated inside the factory so they will not undergo the daily hassles of commuting.

Two, let the line supervisors take the lead. It’s easier that way. They understand the individual personalities of all workers assigned to them. Instead of the HR department taking the matter directly to the workforce, coach all line leaders about the basic guidelines on how to motivate their people and how to follow health and safety protocols.

Three, promote physical activity inside the factory. Stressful times are ideal for creating non-contact physical games between and among the workers after working hours. This may include simple, but effective physical exercises that you can find from the Internet. These are children’s games that would interest adults as well like solo ball skills, solo balloon volleyball, etc.

Four, quell any rumors as soon as they emerge. Small businesses are vulnerable during the pandemic. Many factories and offices have already discontinued their operations due to disruptions in supply and demand for their products. Employees do a lot of harm by speculating and spreading baseless stories. Just the same, don’t give anyone false hopes.

Last, encourage everyone to be spiritually healthy. Inspire hope and prayer with everyone. The crisis is temporary. The pandemic may not last with the impending release of vaccines and related medicines. One important thing to consider is a voluntary 30-minute prayer meeting with no focus on any religious beliefs. This may be done shortly after office hours.


Your job as HR manager is to make everyone comfortable while following, if not exceeding, basic health and safety standards. Inspirational words are important. But if you fail to back them up with tangible solutions, like providing free worker accommodation and meals after meetings, all of your efforts to motivate people will be for nothing.

In addition, you may want to provide giving free, limited Wi-Fi so everyone can communicate with their loved ones and for workers who may want to pursue online courses appropriate for the factory. Draw the line at online games though because they can be disruptve.

Under the right conditions, you may even succeed in winning everyone’s loyalty for offering such extras during a pandemic.

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