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CFOs have an opportunity to support employees’ mental, emotional, and physical health during a stressful time.

The CEO and head of HR aren’t the only people who should be taking care of your employees’ health and well-being. As the leader of the financial team, it’s your job to keep your employees healthy and safe as well — to take the lead as COVID-19 continues to make headlines around the world.

As McKinsey authors explain, “Amid all this uncertainty, the CFO can play a strong, central role, alongside executive peers, in stabilizing the business and positioning it to thrive when conditions improve. The CFO is the leader, after all, who most directly contributes to a company’s financial health and organizational resilience day-to-day.”

Being the Chief Financial Officer, you have an opportunity to step into your role as a leader to support mental, emotional, and physical health. When looking at these three areas through the lens of COVID-19, there are a few elements to consider.

Physical Safety

First and foremost is the physical safety of the finance employees going into the office to manage accounting and office-based tasks that can’t be done at home. While many businesses are trying to balance sending finance employees into the office and allowing them to stay home, there are still shifts that need to be made.

In June 2020, 76% of CFOs said they planned to change workplace safety measures, and 71% planned to reconfigure the office to promote social distancing, according to the PwC CFO Pulse survey.

With employees shifting back to the office in some cities, it’s necessary to take these measures. Here are a few ways you can do that according to a 2020 SERVPRO office cleaning survey and feedback from our clients:

  • Set a cleaning schedule: 63% of respondents said the office is cleaned multiple times a day.
  • Hire the right cleaners: 34% of respondents said they’re using both a CDC-certified cleaning company and janitorial staff.
  • Invest in the right equipment: 51% of respondents are adding hand sanitizer stations, and 35% are taking employees’ temperatures.
  • Require an attestation letter: before entering the office, employees have to self-declare being free of typical COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Space out workers: create buffer zones and extra space between workers.
  • Encourage safe behavior: Discuss new rules for your team to keep each other safe: wearing proper masks, eating separately, no sharing food in the break room/kitchen, and keeping common equipment clean (copiers, phones, scanners, staplers, filing cabinets)

Mental Health

The same PwC survey found that 47% of finance leaders expect revenue declines of more than 10% this year. As a result, your analysts, accountants, risk managers, and other members of your financial team are stressed — their job has become problematic in many ways. Not only are they shouldering part of the financial burden, but they’re also dealing with working from home for the first time and the struggles that come with making that shift.

PwC’s report on balancing remote work in financial services firms found that employees are asking for mental health support in a few ways:

  • Better tech support — laptop, software, etc., so work is more manageable, streamlined, and productive
  • More flexibility for taking time off
  • Clear rules on when workers must be available.

There are many things you can do to support those employees person-to-person, including:

  • Shift the focus from being “busy” to getting results
  • Let employees re-create their work and home schedules
  • Remind staff of their role in the bigger picture and the importance of what they’re doing
  • Set clear expectations
  • Acknowledge when they do things right so that they can proceed confidently

Finally, remember the “ER” in SMARTER goal-setting: Evaluate and readjust. This is a work-in-progress for everyone, so make time to check-in on where everyone needs support, what’s working, and what’s not.

Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness is different from mental health. As WebMD Health Services explains, “Mental health refers to your ability to process information. Emotional health, on the other hand, refers to your ability to express feelings which are based upon the information you have processed.”

As a CFO, it’s critical that you consider your employees’ emotional wellness in addition to mental health. One way to do that is to make time for connecting 1-on-1 with your employees. This scheduled time with your employees is an opportunity to communicate clearly, show empathy, and offer counseling, coaching, and support.

The key is setting a consistent meeting time and putting it on the calendar. Employees won’t always ask for the emotional support that they need, so set a monthly meeting with each employee to connect emotionally.

In addition, our most successful clients do this:

  • Let employees know how much you care for them, so they will care how much you know.
  • Show appreciation; thank them for their service, their flexibility, and dependability.
  • Acknowledge their contributions, good attitudes, client service, innovation, and flexibility.

There is so much you can do as the financial leader of an organization to support your employees. When you shift your focus to physical, mental, and emotional help, you can give your employees what they need while managing the stress of COVID-19 and working remotely.

*This article was originally published here on CFO.com.

Paul Herrerias, Managing Director at Comhar Partners’ San Francisco office, has over 30 years of experience in executive search and leadership consulting. As a Chief Financial Officer specialist, Paul leads Comhar Partners’ CFO and Financial Executives Practice Group. He also coaches and mentors Chief Operating Officers and executive teams. Prior to Comhar Partners, Paul was trained as both a CPA and an Organization Development/Human Resources Consultant. Paul firmly believes that TEAMS build businesses, not individuals. In his spare time, you might find Paul running through mountain trails, brewing his own beer, or taking pictures of the world around him.