During the first collective shutdown phase of COVID, the instinct was to come together and check in with each other. Teams were talking with each other more than ever. Feedback we’ve heard from many people indicated that was just what was needed.
We’ve moved into a different phase, with the reality of long term uncertainty and focus on our personal circumstances. An organisation’s key role during this time is to keep operating, maintain employment and provide a basis for financial security. The other key role is to support their employees in order to maintain and build the organisation.
Individual resilience relies on self care, and organisations can support self care and avoid employee burnout.
Employee burnout was a concern before COVID, due to the treadmill we were all on. The treadmill for the most part was driven by growth and change. Today’s treadmill is being driven largely by fear and uncertainty. While the longer term shift to remote working has created many opportunities, organisations and their employees – each and every person – will need resilience to ride the waves challenging both mental and physical wellbeing.
We aren’t born resilient, but we can all develop it through self awareness and practising self care. While there are some common behaviours found in resilient people, what constitutes self care is a very individual thing.
A manager in the middle of the dot.com crash told me, people need more energy to be productive during a downturn than in a booming market. In a downturn, most of that energy is being expended on a range of challenges, so investment in self care is essential to recharge.
How we manage ourselves, and others, and the work practices we adapt to, will have a lasting impact on our wellbeing over the coming months.
Some organisations are supporting their employees very well, but recently we’ve also heard many stories of extended work hours, micromanaging, poor communication, disconnection from colleagues and overwhelming physical and emotional fatigue.
Organisations can’t create employee wellbeing, that’s an individual responsibility. Instead, organisations can impact wellbeing through work practices and championing information that creates a culture of wellbeing. ‘Well’ employees are more productive and engaged, supporting the organisation to maintain and build operations and financial security.
Tips for building resilience across a team
Create the culture from the top
With a clear vision and purpose, managers that walk the talk demonstrate self care as a priority alongside business objectives.
Allow team members to set appropriate boundaries
Create transparency within teams as to available meeting times and expectations to deliver work. Allow them to be honest about their personal priorities, so everyone can do what they need to get done without guilt or shame.
Understand individual needs for connection and office based work
Some people are suited to remote working but for others the disconnection, or an unsuitable living situation, may be having a detrimental impact. Can office based work be prioritised for those that need it? Can you build in more ways for extroverts to connect?
The simplest communication channels that were replicated into remote working were functional work meetings and action required to address the crisis. The other essential communication channels are the elements that build and reaffirm working relationships. Create habits and utilise a mix of real time and asynchronous communication that also allow channels for office banter, recognition, feedback, and side chats to follow up after presentations or challenging meetings.
Finally communication needs to be honest and transparent. Don’t shy away from sharing the reality of a situation. People have the ability to respond and make better decisions if bad news is delivered honestly and clearly, rather than the uncertainty of silence or misinformation. Avoiding the reality of our current situation can erode trust, which is a foundation for building productive teams.