5 ways to support your employees during a recession

Aiva Strelca 26.09.2022
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Support illustration

Talks about the upcoming economic downturn and seeing it already strike businesses is undeniably daunting to company owners and managers. However, CEOs and business owners are not the only ones alarmed about it – employees are anxious, too. 

Most of today’s workforce still has clear memories of the 2008 crisis, making them dread the upcoming recession even more. A constant sense of uncertainty and financial concerns don’t leave the work environment untouched. The offices become tense. The workers turn jittery. 

Even though such times aren’t easy for anyone, being a manager, it’s your job to ease the employee anxiety as much as possible. To help you, we’ve assembled a few tactics you can implement to support your workers during a recession.

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Communication is king

Team meeting

The one and only golden rule in every crisis – communication is king. Thus, when supporting your employees during an economic recession, being open to honest communication can be more helpful than you’d ever imagine. 

Keeping your employees guessing about the potential cost-cutting, layoffs, or other procedures that could be implemented in case of a company crisis will only heighten employee tension. Even if things are going well for your business, it’s still a great idea to collectively talk about the current situation in your specific market, how and if it affects your company, and what would be the first steps in case of a crisis. 

Honest communication will reduce office gossip and add much-needed calmness to the work environment so everyone can remain sane in uncertain times.

Re-evaluate your benefit system

A person using a tablet

Another option to support your employees during a crisis is to take an honest look at the employee benefits you offer – are they in line with the current workers’ needs? Maybe it’s a good idea to ditch some fun perks in favor of, for example, added healthcare bonuses or free lunch at work. 

When re-evaluating, try focusing on the so-called sustainable employee benefits, such as:

  • Healthcare and wellness perks – health insurance, mental health insurance, dental insurance, vision-related insurance
  • Financial bonuses – short-term employee loans, integrated saving accounts
  • Work-life balance perks – paid time off, flexible hours, hybrid or remote work options

Most importantly – ask your workers what’s important to them, and then consider if and how you can take care of their needs within the scope of employee benefits.  

Support employee side hustles

A person displaying balance boards

According to Zapier, in 2021, 34% of American employees had a side hustle, with the percentage growing continuously. While, as a manager, your initial reaction to this data may not be positive, don’t frown upon it. There are several reasons why approving your employees’ side gigs may be a good form of support through a recession. 

First of all, side gigs allow your workers to earn some extra money. Thus, if you’re about to cut costs (and affect salaries), think about allowing employees to take some work time for their side gigs in case of need. It will enable them to earn more and boost their loyalty to you as an employer.

Secondly, supporting employee side hustles can improve employee retention. As more and more employees have a side gig, it’s becoming a widespread trend, and strong disapproval of it can be why an employee resigns. Being supportive may be your bonus point in workplace evaluation and the reason why an employee chooses to stay.

Implement or upgrade a bonus system

Two colleagues communicating

Implementing a bonus system or upgrading an existing one can not only support employees but also motivate them during a crisis. 

First off – the supporting part. A performance-based bonus benefits you both – the employee receives extra money while the employer enjoys the upsides of having a productive and diligent worker. Even in times of recession, such bonuses are cost-effective as they motivate employees to do their best, boosting your business performance. 

Next is the motivational aspect. A bonus system is a great way to motivate and engage your employees, lowering employee turnover as a positive side effect. With a crisis lurking around the corner, workers may seek better-paid employment opportunities. Thus, improving employee engagement and overall satisfaction via a reward system is a good idea.

Focus on employee engagement and motivation in crisis

Two colleagues communicating

Paying extra attention to employee engagement and motivation in crisis is in no way less important than other forms of support. 

Why? 

Making sure that your employees find their work fulfilling and that it’s the one steady thing within the chaos of sky-high inflation can create a priceless bond between employees and the company. And, if the recession hits your business, too, you’ll have a solid and reliable team ready to face the challenges.

Here are a few ways to motivate employees during an economic downturn: 

  • Celebrate achievements – it doesn’t have to be a big blast, but a thoughtful gesture when a milestone is reached is crucial to employee morale and motivation
  • Remember to express your gratitude – employees want to know you don’t take them for granted
  • Encourage a healthy work-life balance – a tale as old as time, but a well-rested worker is a well-performing worker always, crisis or not

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Conclusion on supporting your employees during an economic crisis

Regardless of which approaches you choose to support your employees during an economic downturn, always remember that they are human beings before they are employees. 

Thus, expect that a certain level of anxiety will linger in the office, and your workers will ask more questions about how the company is doing than before. The best you can do is communicate openly and honestly and ask your employees what support they would benefit from the most and, if you can, provide them with it. 

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