How to manage Brexit fears in the workplace

It was only added to the dictionary last year, but now barely a day goes by without mention of ‘Brexit’.  Despite this, how employers are to manage the uncertainty of the in/out vote is rarely discussed.  Looking at new totaljobs research published today – exactly one month before the EU referendum –we ask how Europeans are feeling about the possibility of a Brexit and what employers can do to help.

How do European employees feel?

Our study of 1,000 Europeans – and by ‘Europeans’ we mean non-British citizens of the European Union living in the UK – found:

  • 1 in 3 Europeans would feel discriminated against if looking for a job in the UK right now
  • 49% fear for their job security and 37% for impact on their personal lives as a result of Brexit
  • 67% of Europeans leaving the UK after Brexit would be gone within two years
  • 61% of Europeans don’t feel informed by their employers about potential work policy changes caused by Brexit

It’s hardly surprising that uncertainty around Brexit is causing Europeans distress – no one can be expected to realise their potential when faced with such uncertainty.  For employees to thrive, they need to know they have a future.  The EU referendum, by its very nature, hangs a big question mark over that future.  And this is particularly true in the workplace.  Indeed, 58% of Europeans cite ‘work-related reasons’ as the primary motivation for moving to the UK in the first place.

We don’t have all the answers.  But we do know that of the 1,000 people we asked, 61% said their employers have not been keeping them informed about the potential work policy changes if Britain leaves the EU.  That might be explained by a lack of certainty; but we do know that there are things they can be doing to help now.

How employers can help in the lead up to Brexit

  1. Be realistic and reassuring

There is nothing wrong with reminding employees that Brexit may well not happen.  However, we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of Brexit entirely and it’s important to acknowledge it could be a possibility.  However you communicate this, be it through a staff letter, company meeting, or 1-to-1 talks, be realistic and reassuring.

  1. Talk

It might sound fluffy, but if your staff are feeling under pressure as a result of a potential Brexit, offer them an outlet.  Make sure you encourage them to share any concerns they may be having and be sure to check-in with them on a regular basis.  As the vote nears, be aware that they (and their performance at work) might be suffering.  Be sensitive to this.

  1. Stay up to date and be transparent

Should the UK vote out, change isn’t going to happen overnight.  Keep up-to-date with legislation changes and ensure any timetable of events is clearly communicated to employees.

There’s bad news and good news…

The bad news is that nearly half (40%) of respondents in our study said that the British decision to hold the Brexit referendum has negatively affected their opinion of the country and is forcing a quarter to reconsider their career options outside of the UK.  The fact this represents a challenge to UK employers is beyond question.

The good news however is that despite their worries, the majority of EU expats in the UK (76%) hope to stay, even if Brexit were to become a reality.  What’s more, half (50%) of all respondents have considered applying for UK nationality; 9% are in the process of applying and only 7% of immigrants say they would not try to stay in the UK if it leaves the EU.

So there you have it.  Whatever the outcome, the EU referendum will have a big impact on the future of the UK and the workplaces within it.  No one can predict with certainty how the vote will go, but we can take steps to help those most affected.

Find out more about the totaljobs survey in this infographic, and read our findings in the full report.

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