The environment created by the global pandemic has demanded constant learning and agility for leaders, encouraging them to be more courageous, yet humble. An employee’s holistic experience of well-being at work has also evolved in scope in today’s context. Yet, as we look at the nature of a virus, we realize that it affects every person in the same way – no matter your rank or stature. It is an equalizer that reminds us of our humanity and this pandemic, has more than ever, brought us closer to our sense of humanness in many ways.
As we see yet another unprecedented year to a close, we need to acknowledge that there are certain stressors which double up towards the last quarter of every year in any kind of workplace. We may be in different stages of dealing with this pandemic whether personally, as a community, or even as a country, so we may need to approach this season realizing that somehow, we are all experiencing the same things, only in differing levels.
Here in this article we share ways on how we, in all our humanity, can support each other during these very challenging times to avoid the year-end burnout.
Q4 is around the corner, and in the professional world, it announces burnout season. For employees in 2021, pandemic fatigue can team up with burnout for a double dose of mental drain.
Stress affects us all differently, and emotionally we’re all in different stages of dealing with this crisis.
How do we help each other, our employees and our company culture during this difficult and overwhelming time?
How to support employee well-being right now
1. Give each other a pass
An executive at a company I work with said, “We have to give ourselves, and each other, a ‘pass.’”
The “pass” they were referring to? It’s another way of saying we need to practice forgiveness in a variety of ways:
• Ask yourself this: do all of your tasks need to be completed right now? Or can it wait till the start of next year, when employees and clients will be in a better frame of mind?
• Give your colleagues and employees the benefit of the doubt
• Internalize that everyone you interact with is struggling to work and live in this difficult time, and in ways we may never fully know or understand
• Assume that everyone is acting from a place of good intentions; when someone acts in an atypical way toward you, avoid taking it personally
• Show patience and compassion toward ourselves and others
2. Check in
My people leader kicked off a recent one-on-one conversation by just asking me how I was doing in the midst of all this.
It seems like such a small thing, but it was surprisingly helpful. As I started to talk with her, it became clear how much was occupying my thinking and my emotions. After just naming what was on my mind, I felt calmer, clearer and better able to focus on other things.
My manager didn’t try to fix anything – she just listened.
This is an easy gift all leaders can give their people, and it only takes a few minutes.
A more formal way to check-in is to send a pulse survey. Not only can an employee survey take the guesswork out of what is causing burnout, but it can also be less confrontational for employees who aren’t comfortable speaking up one-to-one.
3. Practice mindfulness and deep breathing
Before COVID-19, I went to New Jersey to meet with a client.
She had been running from meeting to meeting all day. When we sat down, she suggested we take 2 minutes before we started:
• Close our eyes
• Clear our minds
• Take a few deep breaths
Research has shown that relaxation techniques like deep breathing counter our bodies’ response to stress, including work-related stress.
Starting or ending meetings with a few minutes of quiet time and deep breathing not only encourages self-care with your staff, it can also bring tangible relief to the stress we are all carrying right now.
4. Encourage gratitude
We live in a world where pain and tragedy dominate our news media. This is particularly true during times of crisis.
While we can’t control our colleagues’ media consumption habits, we can take small steps to try to positively influence everyone’s outlook.
Ending meetings by asking employees to share one thing they feel grateful for helps us pause our minds briefly to be present and appreciative. This temporary shift in focus can provide a well-needed infusion of positive vibes.
5. Remind employees to practice self-care
Under stress and nearing the end of the year, it’s natural to feel like we should be doing more, whether:
• As a distraction from personal problems outside of work
• Over stress of meeting end-of-year goals and targets
• Out of fear that we’ll join the jobless ranks if we don’t do more than ever to show that we’re indispensable
Under the best of circumstances, many of us struggle to take care of ourselves, opting instead to worry and care for everyone else. These are not the best of circumstances, and it’s more important than ever to be sure we are taking time to care for ourselves.
When leaders encourage and model self-care, it gives employees permission to do the same. Let employees know:
• In these circumstances, we are all going to be less productive
• You want them to take breaks to exercise, give time and attention to their children and loved ones and get more rest
• Ways you are practicing self-care
Your encouragement will go a long way to supporting this important need.
It's time to check in on your employees' mental health
Healthy workplaces keep track of their employees’ well-being through regular employee surveys. Ask us how our Trust Index™ survey can help you today.
Laurie Minott is a partner at Great Place to Work®, where she consults and coaches CEOs, CHROs and executive leadership teams on advancing business performance and culture change through strategies and solutions that create a great place to work For All™. She has deep experience leading successful organizational change, including her own direct experience as an executive in an organization that achieved recognition on the Fortune Best Workplaces in Health Care & Biopharma™ list.