Navigating the malaise

How to keep your people and your business culture alive as the lockdown stretches on, and on…

Most of the country is feeling fed up. People want to see their families and friends, they want to live their lives, and they want to be free from the constant weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a difficult place to be, emotionally and intellectually, as the restrictions continue to hold in light of rising numbers and risk.

For leaders, this is becoming a problem. There are more than a few mental health issues that accompany the constant drone of the virus, and people are losing focus and interest. And this is completely understandable.

Nobody knows where they are in the pandemic. Is this the middle of the road? Is this the end?

Or are we still somewhere at the start? It’s overwhelming and people are losing their impetus. Now is the time to provide people with the inspiration, support and corporate culture that they need to keep going, to work hard, to innovate and to thrive. Now is the time to provide the kind of support and guidance that your employees need so they can keep going through this difficult time.

The first step is to put mental wellbeing at the front of the conversation. People worry that they appear weak or that they aren’t as good as their colleagues if they’re having a hard time, so take this concern away. Make it clear that people handle crises differently and that no one way is better than the other, and give people access to information and support services that they can use to overcome any mental stress they may be feeling.

This can come in multiple forms. You can share information from reliable sources that offer mental health and wellbeing guidelines. These  can include the World Health Organization – they have created a dedicated page of resources to help people manage stress and wellbeing. There is also the Discovery and government’s COVID-19 dedicated mental health website. Put these into company emails, on noticeboards (if you’ve staged a semi-return to work), in newsletters and different forms of communication.

The second step is to embed mental wellbeing across how you approach work and life balance in the business. It’s very easy to enjoy the access to employees at 10pm at night, because the lines have been so suddenly and sharply blurred, but this isn’t fair on them. Or you. While the regulations do uphold the need for set working hours, many companies are taking advantage of the lack of traffic and commute and hard home deadline and abusing the time employees have at home. If your company is a culprit, now is the time to stop. Not only does this put immense pressure on people to be always on/always ready, but it seriously affects performance and engagement over the long term. Draw clear lines in the sand, and keep them there.

The next step is to practice what you preach and to put your own work/life balance under scrutiny.

A leader who sits at their desk 24/7 without rest or respite is setting a bad example. Employees will feel that they have to mimic this in order to gain approval, or they will feel the stress of waking up to the 10 emails sent at 2am on Sunday night.

A leader that includes themselves in the wellness mandates, that works to actual work weeks, that manages their hours and clients more effectively, is a leader that will embed this culture into the company.

It may seem impossible now. You can’t even begin to finish the To Do list from Wednesday (it’s Friday), so how are you supposed to knock off after eight hours? The answer lies in effective time management tools, saying ‘No’ a lot more, and being committed to changing how your company, and you, define deadlines.

These practices – hard won, for sure – will create a culture that’s more capable of adapting to changes in pressure and workload, and that’s far less stressful.

Now is the time to provide people with the inspiration, support and the business culture that they need to keep going, to work hard, to innovate, and to thrive.

Lead by example, and the example right now needs to be about balance.

Finally, be transparent and connected. Transparency has become a commodity in the pandemic. People are remote. They don’t see other employees or leaders regularly. They’re not sure about what’s going on in the background. The office watercooler is empty.

This is creates yet another layer of uncertainty for the employee. But this is one thing you can remove from your company. Be transparent about change, about new investments, about clients leaving, about other employees leaving, and everything else in-between.

If people feel connected to what’s going on, they are more engaged and more productive. If people feel that their work is the one constant in a sea of change, they will cling to it with commitment and determination.

So, to inspire employees and ignite their confidence and passion during this complex time, make your business the least complex place to be. Make it the place where they feel valued and heard, where their work has visible meaning and where they can go to simply be normal again.

As seen on BizMag

 

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