In 2016, 30 million British people voted on possibly the biggest political decision of this generation—whether or not to remain part of the European Union. Whatever their reasons for voting, 52 per cent of those votes were to leave—and at the end of March, that is what the UK is going to do.
Regardless of political opinion, it’s not difficult to find reasons to be stressed and anxious about this. Doomsayers in the pub, in the press, and in the corridors of power speak of tariffs causing food prices to skyrocket. Manufacturers are closing up shop and leaving the country. And European negotiators gravely warn that a no-deal exit is ever more likely. Your employees are likely feeling the a little scared and overwhelmed by this flood of negativity. Particularly if they’re one of the 2.27 million EU nationals working here. What can you do to reassure them?
Offer support and advice
Let your employees know that you share their uncertainty. Don’t phrase this in such a way that it sounds like you’re as nervous as they are—but empathise, listen, and support. Speaking honestly and openly about the future of your company will help. If they hear from you that your company is ready and able to face the world outside the EU, they’ll have one less thing to worry about. Some larger companies retain the services of a specialist immigration lawyer for their EU national workers, to be used free of charge. Depending on the size of your workforce, this could help to retain your best talent.
An uncertain future leads to dreadful anxiety. The Existential Academy, in a fine charitable act, are offering up to six sessions with a qualified counsellor for any EU national living and working in the UK. Put your employees in touch with them—the support will definitely be welcome. If you have an EAP in place, direct your employees to the counselling provided. Even if they don’t take up the offer, the mere fact that it’s there can provide reassurance for many.
Keep an open forum, and an open mind
Tensions can run high whenever politics are mentioned in the office. But with such a huge, important event as Brexit looming, people are going to want to talk about it.
Don’t discourage conversation. But be sure to set out guidelines—respect each other’s opinion and position, and don’t allow discussions to become arguments.
Keep these brief suggestions in mind, and hopefully your office can sail harmoniously into the future—whether we stay in the EU, or not.
Interested in recruitment after Brexit? We recommend the Immigration for Recruiters: Right to Work in the UK training day.
David Price is CEO for Health Assured: the UK and Ireland’s most trusted health and wellbeing network. He advises employers daily on how to encourage and develop a healthy workplace, whilst outlining best practice guidance on how to combat and control workplace stress. David also speaks regularly to the press and media on mental health issues with his commentary profiled on SKY News, BBC and a regular contributor to Financial Adviser from the Financial Times.
David’s career has always centred on the development and wellbeing of employees. Before joining Peninsula, David spent several years in the senior management team at a leading national training provider, which helped more than 78,000 UK businesses start up. He has also worked for the Department for Work and Pensions and is a long standing member of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).