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Gender, Diversity and Inclusion in CGIAR's Workplaces


April 2020


Managing your team members’ stress, anxiety and burn out

At times like this, anxiety is to be expected, and up to a point is an understandable and healthy response.

While it’s reasonable to experience a range of anxiety, in stressful circumstances, this can tip over, and we can find ourselves consistently experiencing high levels of anxiety. This is not just a mental health concern. Research has shown that heightened anxiety over a prolonged period of time leads to a weaker immune system. Without help, we can get stuck in an unhealthy cycle – we feel anxious, our minds becoming frozen, and we feed this fear by constantly engaging with what is making us anxious (such as constantly reading the news), and then we get more anxious.

As a People Leader here are three proven approaches to help you manage your and your team’s anxiety:

Take your team’s anxiety temperature: A quick and repeated survey can help People Leaders understand whether their team members are experiencing anxiety and allow them to respond promptly and appropriately. Just the sending and discussing of such a survey can ease concerns and normalize the anxiety many Staff may be facing. The GAD-7 is a well-established, evidence-based approach to establishing a base-line of how your team members are feeling. Scores of 5, 10 and 15 represent cut-off points for mild, moderate and severe anxiety, respectively. A recommended cut-off point for referral for further evaluation is 10 or higher.

Send supportive messages: Remember to connect, communicate and reassure. Sending Staff who are feeling anxious, stressed, or isolated supportive messages can strengthen their sense of community and belonging. Schedule time each day in your calendar to remind yourself. Keep the messages short and simple and ideally personalized. Simply asking how someone is feeling or what support they might need can make a difference. Encourage your team members to do the same for each other to create a community of care and support.

Guide Staff to Counselling support and evidence-based mental health and wellness resources: There are numerous free mindfulness applications that you could share with your team. In addition to support provided through medical insurance or Employee Assistance plan, the CGIAR GDI Function has created a CGIAR Counsellor Roster. The GDI function is also sponsoring 700 hours of System-wide confidential Counselling support, especially for those with caregiving responsibilities, who are struggling with the pressures of juggling children while working from home for extended periods, and those who are experiencing isolation in lockdown. This confidential source of support is also available to anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence. Contact your HR Director to find out more.

Want to know more?

This is a great, evidenced-based series of four easy-to-watch webinars (25 minutes each) on how to deal with anxiety by Harvard Health.

All the guides in the series